The following is written by my friend Monica, who lost her 22 year old daughter 12 years ago:
“ Grief would ambush me when I least wanted it. In the middle of a work day, rushing to my car in tears, little droplets of love and pain leaving a trail no one would follow. And then falling apart so completely that people coming in from the lot risked being late to a meeting so they could hold my hand or say something kind. Perfect strangers, witnessing my sorrow. Ever the damn stoic, I didn’t want anyone to see. Regardless, those visiting angels showed up as if on cue.
Some years later, I experienced surprising and quite pleasant visits of the dragonfly. One day, I was sitting alone on a sunny afternoon in our backyard, when a beauty dive-bombed my head so unexpectedly I batted it away. ‘I’m sorry! Please come back!’, I said upon discovering it was a dragonfly. And then it happened. It lands on me lightly, right over my heart. True story! I dared not breathe. Talk about feeling touched by an angel and a dragonfly at the same time!”
Today marks the 3rd anniversary of my mother’s passing. On that very dark day, my life changed completely. Her sudden and unexpected death left me with pain I thought would never go away. A couple of weeks after her funeral, I was finally alone at home getting a break from visitors, who were coming by to pay their condolences. Until that very moment, I hadn’t cried that much as I was trying to be the supportive daughter that my father needed. Still, I was in shock and having to pinch myself every so often to remind myself of what had happened. But at that very moment I was alone and I was ready to let it all out. I needed it. I cried like I had never cried before. And I could have continued, but all of a sudden the room started smelling like somebody was smoking. I knew I wasn’t. I went out of the room to see if someone was there. But no, I was alone. The idea of my smoker mom coming to comfort me came to my mind, but I didn’t think much of it. Then in the following days, months and even to this day, subtle but weird things started happening. Always when I was having a tough day or when I had a question, the answers would appear out of nowhere with a feeling of comfort that I couldn’t explain. Similar to Monica’s daughter coming to her as a dragonfly.
Call it whatever you want; religion, afterlife, energy, or my very own crazy imagination. It may very well be all or none of those things, but for me it is the feeling of comfort that she is watching over me in some shape or form and that she is by my side when I am in need. I do not know how and why, but I know that this is true. Nowadays, it doesn’t hurt as much. I do miss her and think about her all the time, but without knowing how, I know that she is in a better place. Hopefully without any pain or worry, living her own destiny in a different dimension.
My Mom’s Tips and Tricks for The Best Bulgur Pilaf:
This bulgur pilaf was one of my mother’s signature dishes. After bread, it was a staple in our house. Growing up, she would tell me that every woman should know how to make a good bulgur pilaf. So today, in memory of her, I am sharing her recipe and secret to the best bulgur pilaf.
Though it is super easy-to-make, my mother had 5 “secret” tricks to make the best bulgur pilaf:
1. Use butter: Even though you can certainly make bulgur pilaf using vegetable oil, she thought that using butter was the key to a good tasting pilaf. She used 2 tablespoons of butter per 1-cup of bulgur.
2. Add pasta noodles like vermicelli or orzo: When toasted with butter, vermicelli turns golden brown adding a beautiful color and a delicious flavor to the end product.
3. Cook/Roast the bulgur before adding the water: According to my mom, this was the most important step. Roasting the bulgur with butter-toasted vermicelli would not only allow flavors to combine, but also pre-cook it.
4. Use boiling water: Instead of using cold (or room temperature) water, she would use boiling water. Also, if we had it available, she would substitute 1 cup of the 2 cups with chicken or vegetable stock.
5. Let it rest: This was another big step. Once all the liquid was absorbed, she would remove the lid, cover it with a paper towel, and put the lid back on to rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. Then she would fluff it with a fork, taste it for seasoning, and add more if necessary.
She would usually serve bulgur pilaf next to a meat dish, but nowadays since we do not eat meat a lot, I mix it with things like cooked lentils, chickpeas, freshly chopped herbs, scallions, pickled onions, or whatever I have available in the fridge and eat it as a main dish. Even without the additions, this bulgur pilaf would be a delicious meal by itself.
On a final note, the writing at the beginning of this post is a passage from a blog post called Angels, Dragonflies, and Fried Egg Sandwich written by my dear friend Monica. She recently started writing about her grief journey. Her website is called life is a pretty word and is full of great writing to support those who are suffering from the loss of a loved one. If you are one of those people or know someone who may benefit from her experience, reading through Monica’s words may help ease the pain. I know, it certainly helps me in those moments when I feel sad.
Mom’s Bulgur Pilaf
A vegetarian bulgur pilaf recipe.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 12 minutes
- Total Time: 22 minutes
- Yield: 4
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Cooking
- Cuisine: Turkish Cuisine
- 2 tablespoons butter (or vegetable oil – if you prefer a vegan version)
- 1/4 cup vermicelli
- 1 cup coarse cut bulgur, picked over, rinsed, and drained
- 2 cups water, boiling water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Black pepper
- 1 cup cooked green lentils – as garnish (optional)
- 2-3 stalks of scallions, chopped – as garnish (optional)
- handful of Italian (or flat leaf) parsley, chopped – as garnish (optional)
- Heat butter in a medium size saucepan in medium-heat. Add in the vermicelli and stir constantly under it turns golden brown, 4-5 minutes.
- Stir in bulgur and cook, while stirring constantly, for 6-7 minutes.
- Pour in the boiling water and salt. Give it a big stir and cover it with the lid.
- Let it come to a boil and turn the heat down to low. Cook for 10-12 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
- Remove from the heat. Remove the lid, put a sheet of paper towel over the top and put the lid back on. Let it rest for 15-20 minutes.
- When ready to serve, fluff it with a fork, sprinkle with black pepper, and if preferred, garnish it with lentils, scallions, and parsley.