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28 December 2005
I've been thinking a lot about shallots lately. But let me backtrack a bit first.
My grandmother (my mother's mother) died in her early 80s. She suffered from dementia in the years before she died and when I presented the description the doctor had given my mother for what was going on in her mother's head to the psychiatrist I work for, he said that she had classic vascular dementia. He also explained that the latest studies seem to indicate that there is a link between vascular dementia and alzheimers dementia, which would, then, help to explain my Aunt Barb and her Alzheimers.
When she was still "with it" enough to understand such things, she asked my mother repeatedly why, out of 10 children, she was the only one to be so affected. My mother pointed out that her siblings had all died in their 60s and 70s of lung-related illnesses, and so they didn't live long enough to know whether they would develop Alzheimers or not.
In the earlier days of her Alzheimers onset, when nobody really believed her when she talked about what was happening with her, I remember her telling me that her brain "didn't work right." She always had a wonderful self-depricating sense of humor and I never believed that she really meant that her brain didn't work right.
Now that those of us who are becoming the "older generation" look at Barb and remember our grandmother, there is the inevitable unasked question: will that be me some day?
Which brings me to why I have been thinking about shallots.
There came a point some months ago when I realized that, as I thought about a recipe I'd seen on TV, that I could not remember the name of this vital ingredient.
It's not that I use shallots a lot, but it bothered me that I could not remember the name. When I was next in the supermarket there they were, labeled: shallots. SHALLOTS. That's what they're called. OK...all's right with the world again.
Only the next time I tried to remember the name, it wouldn't come. Somehow my brain knew it was an "s" word, but all I could think of was scallions and I knew that wasn't right.
I made a dish with shallots the other night. The next morning, Walt was using the leftover sauce for his eggs and he was commenting on the bits in the sauce. I was going to let him know that they weren't onions (which he doesn't eat), but shallots. Only I couldn't remember the name.
I hemmed and hawed and tried to find the word. I finally admitted that I couldn't get the word and it was those things that were like onions....not scallions but.... "Shallots?" he asked. SHALLOTS!! That's it. Shallots.
An hour later, I was standing in the kitchen, confident that I now knew the word, and again it was lost. All that would come was "scallions."
I was embarrassed to admit that I couldn't remember the word again, so I came to the computer and looked up "onion family" and, of course, found shallots.
What I needed was a mnemonic to help me remember it.
"I SHALL remember," I thought to myself. That will help me come up with SHALLots.
So at some point later, I decided to recall the word again. "I WILL..." I thought, but that didn't ring true. I couldn't come up with a word that began with WILL... I still knew that it was an "S" word but was stuck with "scallions."
In the supermarket, my brain worked overtime...what was that word? I saw the package of shallots off in the distance. I was determined that I would remember the word before I actually got to the display, and suddenly the cloud lifted. SHALLOTS. The word was there again. I wandered around the store saying "I shall...shallots!" to myself (people look at you funny when you do that).
Since the supermarket reawakening, I have had no difficulty remembering the word "shallots." But maybe it's only a matter of time until I am grasping once again trying to remember the word.
Is this what my aunt was feeling in those early days when she confessed that her brain "didn't work right"? Is this the beginning of a more extensive loss of first short-term memory, and then all memory entirely?
For those of us who have watched a grandmother and now an aunt deal with the loss of brain function, every incident like this is another worry. Is it only a matter of time before we look into the face of a child we have birthed and loved and ask "what's your name, dear?"
For now, I know a shallot when I see it and I remember what it is called.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Remember Peggy's friend Monty? This is
his wife, Carolynn