by Larry Welshon
My late wife Tammy and I fell in love at first sight on a blind when we were very young. We were together for more than 30 years at the time of her passing.We have two lovely children, Ellie (who is now married to Kohlton) and Ethan (who is a heavy equipment operator in Antarctica). I teach at Alpine Valley School in Wheat Ridge, Colorado—a school that Tam and I started for our own children in 1997.
Tammy Welshon was a creative cook and baker, renowned in our circle for the wonderful meals she prepared with love. On the morning of October 29, 2015, she had a fatal heart attack on the floor of our kitchen, where we had spent many years sharing her love of food. The loss of my wife was akin to losing ⅔ of my own life, or perhaps a limb. As many who have been widowed know, we learn to live with the loss. Part of my learning took the form of teaching myself how to cook.
Prior to her passing, the division of labor in our family was such that I didn’t cook. Maintenance, yard work, doing dishes, etc. were my specialties. In all our years together, Tammy and I only cooked together a few times. This seemed equitable and normal at the time, but once she was gone, my lack of kitchen experience became obvious.
Our children and friends encouraged me to cook and bake. Spending time in her kitchen was (and is) a beautiful way to remember Tam. The kids—son Ethan, daughter Ellie and her husband Kohlton—have all spent time in her kitchen cooking and baking. Accomplished cooks and bakers in their own right after years of kitchen time with their mom, they all show a deep understanding of and appreciation for good food. Thankfully, they’ve been sharing with me what they learned from Tam–and what they’ve learned on their own–as I make my own way in what is now becoming my kitchen. I’m confident Tam approves of the transformation.
I’ve only recently come to appreciate the self-reliance required to cook—I mean, really cook, the way she did… Not merely to feed the family, but as a creative expression. At first, alone in the kitchen, I was a bit paralyzed–that is, until the kids and friends helped by answering questions and showing me basic techniques. As I venture into more difficult recipes, I remember something about Tammy. Self-confident and resilient, she cooked like she did everything else in life. She’d work at it and find pleasure from it. She’d read the recipe and think about it. She’d try different ways of doing things. There would be failure and success.
The recipe I submitted, Welsh rarebit, has some personal meaning that I’d like to share in closing. On our honeymoon in England, we happened upon Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House in Bath. This was a lifetime ago, but I recall the two of us eating many, many helpings of Welsh rarebit, to the point of being totally gorged.
Over the years, Tam would make it at home, too. Watching her, the cooking of a cheese sauce seemed magical to me. I recognized there was technique involved, but of course, it never occurred to me that one day I’d be alone. Taking on the challenge of Welsh rarebit today, I decided to attempt what Tam might have done—experiment. Keeping all other ingredients constant, I tried three different ales. Cooking them simultaneously was invigorating, and I felt Tam flowing through me. I called over a friend to taste-test (and because—universal truth—food is meant to share).
It gives me great pleasure, as I know it would Tammy, that both her children are great cooks and bakers. In the picture above, you will notice an image of my beloved wife that our daughter had made for me recently. Having it in the kitchen, where Tam can watch over us, provides a constant reminder of her love of family and friends through the sharing of home-cooked meals.
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