So much of life revolves around food: basic nourishment, health, celebrations, art, community. Tonight we gathered at the table for a timely, albeit somewhat uncomfortable meal. My dad gathered six of his closest church friends, my mom and my brother and I for dinner to discuss his final wishes. Dad is dying.

My dad was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this spring, just about the time my mom-in-law died of the very same disease. Nasty, nasty cancer that it is. To date there are no reliable early detection methods for pancreatic cancer and survival rates are unfortunately low. In my mom-in-law’s case, it had metastasized so much that by the time she was diagnosed, she only had a few days to live.

Dad’s tumour, although not large, is inoperable and there are no treatment options. His health is declining and we’re noticing how cancer is slowly taking over and how Dad is slowly slipping away.

But true to Dad’s wise and practical nature, he’s taking care of business. As hard as it may be, he’s thought through endless details and has made his final arrangements. And of course he would share these with the ones he trusts most at his favourite place, the dinner table. So tonight we feasted on platters of Chinese food and talked and reassured Dad that things will be the way he wishes. We also laughed and joked and listened to Dad’s always eloquent stories of life, politics and travels.

Life is uncertain these days. But the table is where we can always find some comfort, solace and love.

Back to school!

It’s that time of year again! Kids are both dreading and looking forward to heading back to school. Parents are also looking forward to sending their kids off but dreading having to pack lunches. Last fall I posted the One Less Challenge and this year I am throwing down the gauntlet again.

I took my own advice to heart last year and managed to cut down on the few store bought processed foods I was packing. These are some of the things we swapped out:

  • Cold cuts: our kid wasn’t a big sandwich eater but when I packed them, I would often include deli meats. This year I was almost able to eliminate them and replaced them with other protein such as smoked firm tofu, homemade karaage (breaded chicken), salmon salad, leftover roast or grilled meat and homemade meatballs.
  • Crackers: I got tired of paying big bucks for whole grain crackers that contained ingredients that were entirely unnecessary and that would be eaten within a few days, so I started making them. Cheap, healthy and delicious.
  • Yogurt cups: We’ve never really bought them as I find pre-flavoured yogurt way too sweet and it contains more artificial stuff than I want. When the Kid went to summer camps, we’d fill up his chilled food thermos with frozen berries and plain yogurt sweetened with a touch of honey. By snack time and with enough jostling, he had a delicious frozen yogurt treat.

Ready for the challenge? Can you pack one less processed food in your kids’ lunches every week? Sure you can!

Happy back to school!