Cooking for Rae (@raelt): Four Burners Going

Photo courtesy of Rae Lewis-Thornton

Many of you may not know Rae Lewis-Thornton. Rae is a woman I met last summer at the Brands & Bloggers Summitin Chicago.  She was radiant, beautiful, well-spoken and extremely dynamic.

During a question and answer session with the panel speakers, I then learned that she was the “Diva Living with AIDS”. I’m not going to lie when I say I was taken back. This gorgeous person, outspoken, educated and strong is living with AIDS? Really??!! I was even more intrigued in learning about her story.

Over the past year, I have gotten to know more and more about Rae. Upon meeting her at the BBSummit, I started to follow her on social media and her blog. Reading her tweets and blog posts is sometimes gut-wrenching and sad. Most of the time it’s empowering, funny and always real. Her tweets (@raelt) are charged with her message about HIV prevention. She tweets about safe sex, her everyday struggles and triumphs, and so many other things I’m too shy to mention. :) One thing that I will always know is that she loves scones and tea. (Of course, these are things that would stand out to me!)

Rae first learned about contracting HIV during a routine visit to the blood drive in 1986. She was only twenty-three years old. She was a young professional working in Washington D.C. Her life has obviously taken a very different turn since then.

Today, Rae spends her time speaking throughout the country about HIV & AIDS and continues to strive to educate the young and the old, as well as everyone in between about the disease. She has also started her own high-end and handmade bracelet collection called RLT Collection to bring a little glamour into AIDS awareness.

Since I knew about the RLT Collection, I have always meant to support Rae buy purchasing some bracelets. Recently, I thought of using the bracelets for the Momma Cuisine Show, to simply show my support for Rae.  But of course, other things happen and I never got around to ordering any.

Last week, I found out that Rae was feeling more ill than usual. She tweeted about her hospital drama as she would, to tell her story. I honestly, whole-heatedly felt sad for her.

On Saturday morning, Rae and I exchanged a few tweets about the bracelets (and how I still haven’t ordered any!) and how I wanted some to include as a part of my wardrobe in the Momma Cuisine Show. Regardless of her situation, Rae easily invited me over to see the collection and pick out a few for the show. I was so excited! What girl wouldn’t want a her own showing of jewelry?

And as if I didn’t have anything else to do or deadlines to meet, I volunteered to make her some meals just to show her some love. Anyone who knows me, follows me, has met me and has become my friend knows that food/cooking is how I show my love and appreciation. So, this was my way of showing Rae support.

One tweet after the other, this simple exchange of food and bracelets has become bigger. Rae and I will now be having dinner in her home with our friend Dwana (@justdwana), to simply spend together in company with some pretty amazing women.

As I write this post, it’s 1:06 a.m., Sunday evening. I have just finished packing three meals for Rae and one meal for Rae, Dwana and I for our dinner tomorrow of Lemon-Caper Shrimp and Spinach. Super lemony and extremely garlicky! Delicious!

As I tackled making these meals this evening, I started to feel a little stressed. The kids had to get to bed, the house was messy, the dishwasher broke and I had four burners going with food for Rae all at the same time. My son kept peaking in the kitchen, asking “Ma? Who are you cooking all this food for?” I explained that it was for my friend, Rae, who wasn’t feeling well, so I was cooking her food to help her feel good. He nodded his head and stared at the shrimp and spinach and said, “Ma? She’s not going to notice if I take just one shrimp, will she??” “No baby…”, I said, “…go ahead a grab a couple.”

For me, cooking is more therapeutic than a chore. I often “get in the zone” while cooking and just get lost in myself and in my thoughts. It’s actually a great time of reflection, despite all the chaos in the kitchen.

As I juggled the four dishes I was making, all at different stages, all different flavors and ways of preparation, I started to think. Many times in our lives, there are so many things on the burner. Some are hotter than others, some may be closer to being finished, others need more seasoning, and one may need a quick stir. Isn’t life just like it?

In cooking, creating a create dish is a culmination of tradition, know-how, instinct and great judgement. I believe these things also apply in life situations. Don’t you?

Sometimes, things happen in life that you don’t expect but turns out fabulously, like the Soy Salmon and Asparagus I wasn’t planning on making for Rae, but did. Or there are things that you always know are true, like my Mediterranean Meatballs that is always a hit!

In the end, success comes from how carefully you balance all the burners while using your best instincts, know-how, traditions and judgement to get the job done.

I hope I’m making sense…it’s 2:00 a.m. :P

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