On June 29, 2012 my friend Barbara Harris died after a long and painful fight with cancer.
We met online a couple of years ago through her blog, winos and foodies, and became virtual friends. As soon as she heard I was in Australia, Barbara and her husband Bryan drove down from Brisbane for a visit. It was like we’d known each other for years, and once we got talking we couldn’t stop.Before lunch was even over, they invited me to stay with them, so we made a date for December.
As the date for our visit drew closer, we laughed because they found out they would have to suddenly move apartments on the day of my arrival. Our plans for a leisurely visit went out the window and instead we spent the weekend packing and hauling boxes in the pouring rain.We had a marvelous time chatting as we packed, taking breaks to indulge in pastries from Barbara’s favorite French patisserie, and to take in the stunning views of the Brisbane River from their new apartment. They dubbed their guest room “Krista’s Room” and said that it would always be open for me.
Throughout all this Barbara was suffering terribly from the effects of her cancer treatments. She could hardly breathe. Her voice was only a whisper. She could no longer taste the food that she loved so much. But she wouldn’t dream of putting her life on hold while she recovered, she simply adjusted her schedule to accommodate naps and rests and wrote to her friends instead of talking with them. Barbara was not a martyr, she didn’t push herself past her limits or take risks with her health, but she was brave beyond measure, and I felt stronger just being with her.
She taught me so much, helping me work through painful things from my past. She shared stories from her life, urging me to trust my own heart, to not be afraid, to press forward with hope. She also gave me courage to be myself, and inspired me to live as beautifully as possible in the time I am given.
My last visit with Barbara was a week or two before she died. Her perky silver hair was gone, and even eating was painful for her. Yet she insisted on providing lunch, spreading the table with scrumptious bread, antipasti, and cheeses. Although she felt terrible, we had the jolliest visit, discussing food, books, music, shared acquaintances, travel and family. I never dreamed it would be the last time I’d see her.
One of Barbara’s greatest blogging legacies is her creation of LiveSTRONGwith a Taste of Yellow, her tribute to Lance Armstrong for the courage and strength he gave her in her own fight against cancer.
That makes me smile because when I think of Barbara, I think of yellow.
Near my house are fields of yellow sunflowers, and Barbara was planning to drive through them so she could take heaps of pictures with her beloved camera.
Barbara grew up on a farm in Australia, and she always peppered me with questions about life on our farm – Citadel Kalahari – wanting to hear all about our chooks, goats and gardens. She had planned to celebrate an early Thanksgiving with us here next month, and I know she would’ve loved these yellow leaves, the yellow dish towel drying in the sun, and the yellow tail on our windmill.
My contribution to Monthly Mingle’s Taste of Yellow is a recipe for Irish Potato Pancakes with Garlic Cottage Cheese. It is pure comfort farm food and when you make it with yellow Yukon Gold potatoes, they fry up a beautiful golden yellow. I call these pancakes Irish because the recipe for the potato mixture was shared with me by an Irish friend who made them regularly on the cold, rainy days Ireland is so famous for. They pair beautifully with creamy cottage cheese mixed with garlic and scallions.
I’m so grateful for the chance to know Barbara, to see her love for her husband and children, her passion for food, music, and travel, and her kindness and genuine care for the people she loved. My life is so much better because she was in it.
Irish Potato Pancakes with Garlic Cottage Cheese
6 Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 can green beans
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup (or more) olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1/2 cup creamed cottage cheese
1 tsp minced garlic
1-2 scallions, sliced
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
- In saucepan place potatoes, green beans (including liquid), garlic, and salt, cover with water and bring to boil. Lower heat slightly and simmer 20 minutes or until potatoes mash easily with a fork.
- Drain well and return to pan. Add olive oil (add more if needed to make mashed potato consistency), salt and pepper to taste, and mash well. Set aside to cool.
- In small bowl mix cottage cheese with garlic and scallions. Set aside.
- Add eggs and Parmesan cheese to cooled potatoes. Mix well.
- Heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil in large skillet and add tablespoons of potato mixture, spreading to make even discs like small pancakes. Cook 2-3 minutes on each side or until crisp and browned. Transfer to plate and cover to keep warm. Repeat until potato mixture is gone.
- Serve warm with garlic cream cheese and sprinkle with additional sliced scallions.