Plain Talk about Food: My journey with Lucy and her favorite dinner
by Colly Gruczelak
Aug 22, 2013 | 1749 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mediterranean snapper sauteed in vegetables can make for a spectacular dinner. Courtesy photo
Mediterranean snapper sauteed in vegetables can make for a spectacular dinner. Courtesy photo
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I have a small patio in front of my house where I love to sit on sunny mornings, drinking that first cup of coffee and watching the chickadees fly back and forth from their birdhouses on the arbor, feeding their babies, My neighbor Morris always greets me with a “good morning” while walking his dog, and often a stranger will comment on my garden, leaving me with a smile on my face.

July of 2012 was no different; an equally beautiful Ben Lomond morning.  Interrupting that morning however, was the ringing of my phone. I decided to let it ring, not wanting to interrupt that precious time, but my conscience got the better of me, and in the house I went.

It was Lucy, a member of the Santa Cruz Mountains Dinner Club wanting to tell me that she needed a year’s sabbatical from the club.  

Lucy is a most valued member of our club; kind and gentle, always willing to do more than her share, a great cook and a good friend. I was saddened by this news and as we continued to talk, Lucy’s voice began to change and I knew she was beginning to cry.

Lucy had been to her doctor the day before who had given her the dreaded diagnosis that none of us women ever want to hear. Lucy had breast cancer.

The next hour Lucy and I talked about the surgery, when and how it would occur, the reconstruction, the chemo and finally the radiation that would follow.

We cried together, Lucy and me. We even laughed a little about her losing her hair and that I would give her my favorite hat to wear when she ventured out to those seemingly endless doctor visits ahead.  I promised to keep in close touch with her; we said “I love you” to each other, and then we hung up.

I returned to my now cold coffee, trying to recapture the joy of that beautiful morning. The chickadees were still feeding their babies, and the sound of my neighbor Mike’s lawnmower was now filling the air. 

It was then I realized Lucy’s and my life would never be the same again. But there was something that I could do to make it better.

I called Lucy back and before she could say anything, I told her of my plan — that I would cook every meal for her and her dear friend Tom until she was well and strong enough to continue on her own. Tom was to come at six o’clock each evening and pick up the hot meal I had prepared. After Tom left, my hubby Norm and I would eat our dinner, the same food that Lucy and Tom were eating. 

Lucy came home from the hospital in mid-July and the plan began to take shape. The first few days, savory broths, jellos and custards were prepared, and as the days went by, soups and comfort foods such as chicken and dumplings were added, later followed by fish and meat entrees. 

Weeks went by and Lucy was finally able to raise her arms above her waist.  A victory; we cheered!

New Year’s Eve arrived and the dinner club was having Lobster Thermador that evening. Lucy and Tom were not forgotten. Their dinner was ready when Tom arrived.

Lucy’s positive attitude has been steadfast. I marvel at her fortitude. The tears have disappeared as well as Lucy’s lovely hair. The hat is still being worn however, but not for much longer.

My phone rang on another sunny morning last week while I was on my patio having coffee. It was Lucy. Lucy called to say her CAT scan read clear.

Mediterranean Snapper (Serves 4)

2 pounds Snapper filets (or any firm white fish)In a 12 inch frying pan add 3 Tablespoons olive oilAdd to pan and sauté until soft:½ cup diced dried onion

¼ cup diced celery

¼ cup diced carrots

1 large minced garlic clove



Add to pan simmering for 20 minutes:2 cups diced tomatoes, fresh or canned

1 teaspoon granulated sugar

¼ cup dry white wine or 2 Tablespoons wine vinegar

½ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

10 sliced pimento green olives

1 Tablespoon capers

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

Add fish to pan. Spoon ½ cup of the sauce over top. 

Cover and simmer 15 minutes.

Serve with steamed rice.  Enjoy!

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