An English grandmother with a long academic career behind her, Dr Julia Ibbotson decided to return to her creative roots, both mentally and physically. When her husband retired they bought a Victorian rectory in the middle of the moors in central England, and without any previous experience set about renovating it. To be truthful they did not undertake the physical work themselves but closely project-managed it. As a result, Julia created two new careers for herself: as a writer when she determined to write about this period of her life, and as a “home cooking with love” advocate.
This is the final post in Julia's delightful three-part weekly series exclusively for Spirited Woman.
I was devastated by the news of my dear daughter’s cancer and we had no idea then what the prognosis would be. But I had to be strong for her and try to focus on all the practical things that needed to be done. At that time, I didn’t know whether we would be caring for her at home during treatment, or to the end, or whether, God willing, she would survive. But I needed to have her near me and to look after her. And to me part of that was to ensure that she had a good healthy diet. For myself, I needed to be able to cook for her, as an offering of love.
Finally I had a functional country kitchen in our old renovated rectory and on my new cooking range, I re-found a certain contentment in feeding my daughter, family and friends with their favourite dishes. I created a small area of the garden to grow fresh produce for my cooking.
Gradually my daughter regained her strength. Friends and family from around the world offered up their thoughts and prayers for her. I am convinced that her spirit was raised up by these prayers and thoughts. It was almost tangible.
Finally, now, thank God, she has survived and, although somewhat scarred and still hobbling on crutches, she is in remission.
Our world had tilted but we had a glimpse of what was really important, what mattered most in our lives. Our family, our friends, the simple things of life. Not racing about chasing success, material things, but just feeling great to be alive and for our loved ones to be healthy. How nearly we had lost that.
I found a new joy in cultivating the soil and in the creation of dishes using my own fresh and healthy produce, making time for talk and laughter with loved ones round the table.
My step-daughter bought me an apron for my little grandchildren to give me, on which was written: “Grandma’s kitchen: tasters welcome, everything made with a spoonful of love." How true this was. I guess I feel that the “love” bit is like a secret ingredient, perhaps passed down from generation to generation, and from all those women before me who baked in my kitchen.
I find joy in the changing seasons and in nature’s growth, as I am sure many generations of women did in this house across the years. They lived and loved through war and disaster, joy and triumph. Their strength raised up those around them. They cultivated the land and cooked for their families and friends. The rectory feels blessed by their quiet persistence. I think that their spirit is with me now today, urging me onwards.
- Dr Julia Ibbotson, www.juliaibbotson.com
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My book will be out by August 2011and is called The Old Rectory: Escape to a Country Kitchen. I do hope you read it and enjoy the stories and the recipes!