Learning to Cook and Savoring Life’s Moments with Jackie Garrett

Jackie Garrett reflects on her grandmother’s life, getting caught up in grind culture and finding meaning and joy through cooking. Plus, tips from mental health counselor Damika Houston.

The Science of Grief, produced by WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, explores the stories, science and solutions around grief and mental health, making space for young adults to share their stories, but also lead the conversation.

Jackie Garrett remembers her grandmother as a dynamic and loving woman.

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Earlier in her life, Jackie’s grandmother worked as a bartender in Detroit’s Cass Corridor and was known for her warm personality.

“She had this way of remembering everybody’s names, and making everyone feel like they were a character,” says Garrett.

In 2019, Jackie’s family was preparing to move her grandmother in with them. They all lived in a hotel for four months while the house underwent extensive remodeling to accommodate her grandmother.

When the construction work was finally done and everyone moved back into the house, her grandmother fell ill and passed away shortly thereafter.

The loss was unexpected and devastating, and Jackie was grieving what she called both tangible and intangible losses.

“I can parse through, really easily, that someone’s gone in a really tangible way. What’s harder to deal with is knowing that the hopes and the future are lost, too.”

Jackie was so caught up with work — instead of going on trips with friends, or going on vacation with her parents and her grandmother — that she says she lost important time with her.

“I guess if I could go back, I would definitely work less.”

Instead of sacrificing time with loved ones and experiences for work, Jackie says, try to sacrifice work for those special moments.

“There is so much more to life than sacrifice.”

“Life is just as much about carving out joy, and stillness, and time, as it is about grind culture.”

Cooking in Her Grandmother’s Honor

Jackie was looking forward to bonding with her grandmother over cooking, one of her lifelong passions.

“It was something that I’d wanted to learn to do with her, was cook.”

“I know that she wasn’t going to be here to share that with me, anymore. It’s not just about the cooking. It’s about the passing down of the lesson. It’s about the relationship that you build and sustain that way.”

“I knew that that part was gone, that was the loss.”

“But I said, I’m still going to learn to cook. This is something she would have wanted for me.”

She started with something simple, frying an egg. The more she cooked, the more relationships she fostered over potlucks and Sunday brunches.

Jackie says cooking is about much more than the food — it’s about the closeness it brings with other people.

Despite not being able to share in those moments with her grandmother, Jackie can carry that lesson and her grandmother’s memory with her as she shares the joy of cooking with others.

Tips and Takeaways from Damika Houston

Damika Houston is a licensed professional counselor and owner of Healing Minds in Grand Rapids. She spoke with host Natasha T Miller and offered the following tips.

  • When checking in on someone who is grieving, instead of asking “How are you doing?” ask “How are you doing today?
  • Making time and space to grieve a loved one is important, no matter how busy you are. Schedule the time if necessary.
  • Writing letters to loved ones who have passed can help say things that you were not able to, or to say goodbye.

Cook Like Grandma

One of the ways Jackie felt connected to her grandmother after her death was through cooking. Check out some of her favorite recipes below.

Grandma’s Sliders

  • ½ pound ground beef or turkey
  • 1 tablespoon each garlic, season-all salt, basil/oregano mix, ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

Hand mash ground beef/turkey and spices together to make three patties.
Flatten patties.
Cook patties in 1 tablespoon oil until two-thirds of the way cooked. Flip with a spatula and press down on patties. Cook fully.
Heat more oil in pan and caramelize the onion.
Add patty to bun, cover in onions and place a towel or cloth dampened with water over the slider to steam, about 3-5 minutes.

Jackie’s Teriyaki Chicken Thighs

  • ½ cup soy sauce
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons ground ginger
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • 4 chicken thighs

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Heat ingredients for sauce (everything but chicken thighs) in a pot or saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved and mixture reaches uniform consistency, about 5 minutes, then lower the heat while you prep the other ingredients.  
Add chicken thighs to metal oven tray. Drizzle sauce over each thigh.
Cook for 23 minutes, flip chicken, continue cooking for 22 minutes. (Total cooking time: 45 minutes)

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Seeking Help

While this podcast is meant to make space for sharing stories and solutions, it is not a substitute for professional help. If you have a mental health concern and need someone to talk to, please contact a mental health professional or your doctor.

If you are in a suicidal crisis or emotional distress, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255.

The Science of Grief podcast is a collaboration between WDET and Science Gallery Detroit, and is supported by the Children’s Foundation of Michigan, MSUFCU and Science Sandbox.

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  • David Leins
    David Leins is a Podcast Coordinator and Producer at WDET. He also oversees the StoryMakers program. When he isn't making radio and podcasts, David is probably on a hike somewhere marveling at the trees.