How My Mother Disappeared

A memoir.

  1. The meatloaf fooled me.

    I should have known it would. That’s what a meatloaf is meant to do: make you believe the world is so forgiving a place that even an array of bits and pieces, all smashed up, can still find meaning as an eloquent whole. The duplicity is integral to the dish, if you make it well. And when I made my mother’s meatloaf, it was perfect.

    In 2005, as my mother began the torturous process of disappearing in plain sight, I retreated to my kitchen, trying to reclaim her at the stove. Picking up a pot was not the instant panacea for illness and isolation and despair that I wanted it to be. But it helped. When I turned to my mother’s recipes, I felt grounded in her rules, and they worked every time. I could overcook or undercook the meatloaf, and it still tasted the same. I could eat it hot and eat it cold, and I ended up doing both, because my stepsons, Nat and Simon, and my husband, Frank, like meatloaf fine, but they don’t love it. The writer Peg Bracken summed it up p...

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