by Stan Shaffer
August 16, 1910 – July 17, 2014
This issue is dedicated to my mother, Frances Shaffer, who died just one month shy of her 104th birthday. She was born in London, England, travelled to America as an infant, and lived in many cities in the US and Canada, most prominently Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and, finally, Burnaby. She had remarkably good health her whole life, until recently when she fell, broke her hip, and died three months later in Burnaby General Hospital.
She was known for her sharpness of mind, her quick wit, and her remarkable abilities in games and puzzles of all sorts—cryptic crosswords, bridge and Scrabble. She read 3-4 books a week, and when she moved to Burnaby prior to her 100th birthday, I had the pleasure of going to the library every week to get her new books. Her self-deprecating sense of humour remained even in the hospital: about being bed-ridden, she said, “Lying in bed all day is not for sissies”; she needed to reposition herself to “give my backside a little holiday now and then”; and modest about her impending 104th birthday, she announced, “I’m not trying to set a record.”
As a woman of her times, she was dedicated to her role as a home maker who raised her children and cooked healthy, delicious meals. I’m the eldest of my three siblings: Rhea (Toronto), Dorothy (Burnaby), and Jayeson (Port Coquitlam). My father could boil water and make toast but not much more, and was devoted to her soups. Following in my dad’s footsteps, and because of our co-dependence on her cooking, I didn’t learn to make my own food until it was forced upon me when I left home for college at age 19.
My brother Jayeson recalls that his favorite meal was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, while mine was lamb roast, whose leftovers became Shepard’s Pie, a steaming dish of chopped lamb topped with mashed potatoes. Although she wasn’t religious, our background is Jewish and she was adept at preparing many Jewish dishes such as the Friday evening chicken, holiday brisket, and mandel bread cookies (Jewish biscotti), as well as her famous chocolate ice box cake (actually a pudding). My sister Dorothy remembers her golden potato latkes, a special dish for the Jewish Christmas, Hanukkah, which is served with sour cream and apple sauce. Mom was a welcoming hostess and treated everyone as guests in her home. She was an engaging conversationalist who enjoyed discussing current events, and would often ask, “What’s new?”
Among the many values I absorbed from her, fairness and equality to all people were paramount. She and my father practiced social justice and community service daily, and I feel I’m following in their footsteps by editing the DTES NH Right To Food Zine.
Rest in peace, mom.