Roses and paprika: In memory of my mother

“Hungarian cuisine has four ingredients,” my brother and I used to joke with my mother, teasing her about her roots, “paprika, poppy seeds, melted butter and goose fat.”

Ariel Sharon ranch 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Ariel Sharon ranch 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
My mother, Lily Sharon, acted instinctively and impulsively. Before dinner at our house, you could see six pots cooking away on the stove at the same time, as well as a cake in the oven, and she would be moving like a whirlwind, seasoning and stirring the pots while crafting colorful flower arrangements.
She did it all in a heartbeat and simultaneously, and the moment the guests sat down, straight from the oven would come a poppy seed or date cake, or one of the many other pastries she baked.
“Hungarian cuisine has four ingredients,” my brother and I used to joke with my mother, teasing her about her roots, “paprika, poppy seeds, melted butter and goose fat.”
We laughed at how passionate the Hungarians are, about how everything is emotional rather than rational, from the sauces and products that go into their cooking to their relations with the rest of the world.
My mother never did anything by halves; there was nothing anemic about her. She was emotion incarnate – those she loved, she loved, and those she didn’t, she didn’t.
Her food was outstanding and generous. Anyone who grew up with a good cook for a mother also experiences her death in the loss of the tastes of their childhood. The pain is heightened by the sense of longing for the food she used to cook. We were spared that additional pain. My mother and my wife spent 12 years together, and a good part of that time was devoted to their shared love of cooking. The flavors are still exactly the same.
She knew every flower in our garden on the farm personally.
Some of our rose bushes are the ones she planted 40 years ago, and they’re still blossoming.
Her love of gardens and flowers meshed very well with her excellent taste. My mother was beautiful, and always well-dressed.
I never saw her walking around the house in sweatpants; I never saw rollers in her hair or sleep marks on her face, not even early in the morning.
Her superior taste also served her in her work as a designer.
She designed the same way she cooked, without measuring anything, but only with a lot of emotion and good taste.
The loyal group of people who come every year arrived for the memorial ceremony we held for her on Friday. A bright, cheerful carpet of multi-colored petunias grows on her grave. The anemones nearby are gone, but all around is green dotted with yellow daisies. Fat red cows graze in the field, the orchards have begun to flower, and the smell of spring is in the air. I have no doubt she would have loved the sight.
Thirteen years have passed since she left us, and sometimes I suddenly see a butterfly rising from a bed of her flowers, or the pretty dove that flutters around us whenever we’re in the stables, even at night when the other doves are asleep. And I think to myself how much it would suit her, suit her type of humor, this sort of trick – to come to us like this, to stay close and not be left out. It’s just like her. After all, even when she passed away at the age of 63, she was still a child at heart.
Gilad Sharon is the author of Sharon: The Life of a Leader.
Translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai, [email protected]