Turmeric and the Ties that Bind

The Daily Grind


I’ve been thinking a lot about turmeric this week. I realize that’s odd, but on Tuesday I mixed a marinade that had a significant amount of said spice in it and, ever since, I keep finding little traces of it all over the kitchen – and beyond. The edges of my fingernails, for example, are stained yellow. The dishes I marinated, cooked in, and served on all had stubborn yellow stains. And I keep discovering little smears of it in the oddest spots in my kitchen. Turmeric, my friends, is dogging me.

So is the failing health of my sweet little girl dog Holly Golightly. She’s been dealing with Cushing’s disease for a number of years, but, for a whole bunch of reasons, I think we are approaching a tipping point where I will have to answer somber questions about the balance between her quality of life and my deep desire to keep her with me for as long as I can.

Holly and Truman (yes, Capote) came into my life as tiny puppies and at a very difficult time for me. They were sick for the first year I had them due to what I can only assume were derelict conditions at the breeder I got them from. I’ll never buy another dog from a breeder, but that’s my experience and not a matter I care to debate with anyone who feels differently. As many dogs as possible need homes, and there are lot of excellent breeders out there.

What I will say about H & T’s tough first year is that those dogs needing me so badly when they were puppies got me through a very rough patch in my own life. And, while I am a deeply sentimental person, I have to admit that - even with excessive sentimentality as context - my relationship with both dogs is extraordinarily important to me. The prospect of saying goodbye to Holly is really daunting, though I know, one way or the other, the time is coming.

She had a little spell this afternoon and I was afraid, at that moment, she might be dying. After a while she came out of it, and is sleeping quietly now, but I think we might have crossed some important milestone in her life’s journey this afternoon.

I’ve been reviewing page proofs for my forthcoming book Cruising for Conspirators, and I just re-read the paragraph in the acknowledgments where I thank my dogs. I suppose that’s in lieu of the place where most authors thank their most intimate companions. Well, these furry little fluff balls are my most deeply loved connections, especially in the day-in-day-out flow of life.

Due to my tussle with turmeric I was reading a little bit about its history and the many uses to which it has been put across time and space. It is, of course, having a moment in the nutraceutical biz, but I don’t find that particularly notable.

What I was delighted by were the cultural uses to which its yellow stains have been put. For example, in 2015, food writer Tori Avey noted that a Hindu wedding tradition involves a groom tying a string, “dyed yellow with turmeric paste” around the bride’s neck. “This necklace, known as a mangala sutra, indicates that the woman is married and capable of running a household.” (https://www.pbs.org/food/the-history-kitchen/turmeric-history/). I think the ritual of the mangala sutrais very romantic, the meaning part, not so much – but that’s me.

Still, I like the idea of how people try to mark each other out as belonging to one other. And, similarly, how people talk about pets by saying that is “really her dog,” or “his cat,” because, let’s face it, pets play favorites, and in multi-pet parent households, they almost always have a particular person who they love the most – who they KNOW they belong to (and with).

So, here is what I know. Turmeric, like the love of a good dog, leaves a mark on you. And it stays, and stays, and stays, and you find little reminders of it everywhere, long after the dog is gone. I still, for example, really miss Percy Louise, who, to be frank, was kind of a jerk despite being very, very cute. I had to help him over to the other side in early November and, to be really honest, I just don’t know if I’m up to repeating that exercise again so soon.

One thing I’ve been working on in yoga is learning how to open myself up to discomfort in the same way I embrace/pursue comfort (Example: I’m a true sybarite with a velvet throw pillow problem; another topic for another day). So I find it ironic, given how hard I have worked to stave off discomfort, that, on the eve of my 55th year, I’m TRYING to learn how to acknowledge discomfort, work with it when I need to, and, otherwise, just let it flow through me without judging it (or myself) too much, or, has long been my habit, seizing up in expectation of the approaching unpleasant sensation. Easier said than done, for me at least, but I’m working on it.

I was recently telling some friends of mine about this super tragic haircut my mother gave me when I was maybe 11 or 12. What I WANTED was a mushroom cut on the order of Tony Tenille’s on the Love Will Keep Us Togetheralbum cover. What I GOT was a haircut that looked – literally – like a big, brown mushroom cap. When we looked at it in the mirror, my mother uttered the line “Well, it’s not exactly what we wanted, but we can work with it.” In the moment I was crushed, but, eventually, the awful haircut grew out, and that phrase has become one we use in my family when you KNOW things suck but you have to acknowledge the bitter taste and the marks it leaves on you and move ahead anyway. Turmeric indeed.

Bon Soir Friends -- XO

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