Monday, August 15, 2011

A peanut Butter Pie of Grateful and Sad

This past weekend wave after wave of other bloggers tributes to Jennifer Perillo's husband, Mikey flooded my google reader, many of them from bloggers I greatly admire. I read them all and marveled at the outpouring of love and support for the devastating loss of this talented and much beloved food blogger. The reaction grew and grew. CNN, Food Network and Tastespotting all joined in to spread the love.

After losing her husband Mikey to a heart attack, Jennifer asked bloggers to make his favorite dessert, a peanut butter pie. She asked that it be shared with people you love to celebrate life.

I did not know Jennifer other than occasionally visiting her lovely blog. So while I was deeply affected by reading her heartbreaking story, I was a little shy about jumping on the peanut butter pie train. Here it is three days late because it took me awhile to understand why I had to make it.

Many of you who read this blog, know my husband, Dr. B has been working in Iraq for the past five years. Every five weeks he would travel home to Germany for a one week visit with me. In order to get out of and re-enter Iraq there is a dicey journey between the green zone and Baghdad airport involving an armored bus traveling along Route Irish, officially categorized as the most dangerous road in the world. Sandstorms and grounded planes for security reasons often further complicated his journey. Each time he left and returned I was on pins and needles. When he arrived safely in Germany or back in the Green Zone, my sigh of relief must have been audible worldwide. He has been though numerous mortar attacks, insurgent fire and bombings of the UN mission. Many of these incidents left me shaking for days. Two weeks ago there was a really close call that made for an especially hard day. I don't dwell on this or ask for sympathy. This is the life we chose together. We shake it off and move on. However, over these past years, I never took him for granted. Not once.

Last week he left Iraq for the last time and arrived safely in NYC. After reading about Jennifer's husband so soon after, I was dumbstruck. How could one person survive relentless exposure to danger and one die so senselessly and suddenly in the confines of a safe family life?

The best answer I can come up with is tomorrow is promised to no one.

We are now into our second week of living our new life in NYC. Dr. B is settling in to his next UN position and no longer works under the constant threat of mortars being thrown at him. Because I am a native NYer, our social schedule is in full swing. Without the dangerous circumstances of his previous job, the question remains. Will I become complacent and let my gratefulness lapse?

This past weekend, friends threw a huge pool party out in Pennsylvania. In the week leading up to the party I could not find the right idea of what to make. I kicked around pool themed cookies covered in blue fondant with maybe little colorful life preservers on them. But I just wasn't feelin' the cutesy.

As we were riding uptown on Friday evening to join our friends for the car ride out to Pennsylvania, I was again contemplating Jennifer and her loss. I was also thinking about my dear, dear friends. The ones who stood by me from the day Bernhard accepted the job in Baghdad. The ones I stayed with in NYC for weeks at a time when I could not bear to be alone in Germany anymore. The ones who talked me down off the ceiling when the anxiety was overwhelming. They were always there with words of encouragement, a glass of wine, a hug or just to lend an ear. As I turned to my husband in frustration and said the words, I just don't know what to make for the party tomorrow, I simultaneously knew instantly what I would bring. It had to be this pie to show appreciation and gratitude to those who had loved and supported me through these difficult last years I spent mostly without my own husband.

Forgive me for making this post about me. It's really not meant to be. It's just a rambling longwinded expression of  how profoundly affected I was by what happened to Jennifer but mostly how awed I am by her grace. 

I've walked a five year emotional tightrope over my own husband's safety and replayed in my head over and over what would happen if he was suddenly gone. So I heard her. Loud and clear. I needed to share this pie with people I love. To eat, savor, enjoy and hold the experience in my heart. One never knows if there will be another chance to do so.

Friends enjoying Peanut butter Pie

Saturday morning I took a quick trip to the local supermarket and whipped up this delicious pie in my friends' kitchen. At the party later that day it was shared, savored and loved. I told the story of why I made it. Now a whole new non-food blogging community of people know about Mikey and Jennifer. People even asked me for the recipe. I made sure they understood it's not just any recipe, it's one with an important and beautiful message attached.

I made Jennifer's recipe exactly except for adding caramel butterscotch to the crust layer and drizzling it on top along with the melted chocolate. I also topped the pie with chocolate chips, sprinkles and peanuts.

I wish Jennifer and her family peace and sanctuary in the difficult months ahead and I would like to thank them for the most meaningful pie I have ever made.


  1. You did exactly what Jennifer asked in her humble request.

    Thank you for sharing so much of the emotionally journey you endured over the past five years. Beautifully written post. Love and hugs to you.

  2. This was such a moving post. Although I have visited your site many times and knew that your husband was stationed in Iraq I guess seeing your cheery posts I never really thought of the constant emotional turmoil you must face. I'm glad you decided to make and share your pie with people you love.

  3. This is such a beautiful post, Lora and I think it captures exactly the spirit that Jennifer was hoping to provoke!

  4. This post hit home. While I am fortunate enough to have a husband safe at home and with me, I know others who do not. And the concept that 'tomorrow is promised to no one' really hits home. My dad died when I was in high school--no warning, just one day he went to work and pulled over on the side of the road and died of a heart attack. While today it wouldn't happen d/t all the technology available, I remember not just how devastated I was, but my mother, who had to carry on w/four children. So make a pie for your loved ones, and support your friends who might be having a tough time. I know one of the hardest things for my mom was all of a sudden she wasn't invited to parties, because everyone was couples and people were afraid being a widow might be 'contagious' sad that is. I guess this is when you find out who your real friends are. So bake a pie, invite your friends and remember to invite your friends you might have lost touch with do to divorce or death of a spouse.

  5. Thank you for the reminder to not let opportunities to live and to love slip away from us.

    I'm very happy for you that you'll have your husband safe at home with you now!

  6. Your words brought tears to my eyes. What strength you have, what heart. Thank you so much for sharing your story and Jennifer's. My husband and I are living in at opposite ends of the country and the separation is gruelling. Nothing like what you have had to go through though. So inspiring to hear what you went through and came out of. Massive Hugs xox

  7. I didn't know that about your husband Lora - you are both so brave! I don't know how I would of held it together. I'm glad he's safe and sound. Thanks for sharing your thought provoking post and the pie.

  8. i'm glad you decided to make the pie, lora--it's a beautiful creation for a sad but at the same time uplifting cause.

  9. I clicked because barbara loves peanut butter pie. So glad I did. I never knew how you made it through five years of this, one six-week-piece at a time. But the ultimate message is so important -- never take our lives & togetherness for granted. I'm going to make a pie too.

  10. Inspirational....and touching... now where is the recipe lovely lady.... Cary


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