Just a mere six weeks ago I wrote an article titled “Norene Gilletz: A Very Special Lady.” It was meant to be a tribute to Norene, who passed away on Sunday of this week. The article was one of the most difficult things I ever had to write, as I knew that it was a living obituary for someone who deserved all of the accolades that were expressed about her. I had visited with Norene at the Palliative Care Unit at the Jewish General Hospital and she was thrilled about the possibility of writing about her, but we agreed that we would not talk of the severity of her illness. She and I both knew that we might never see each other again, and in fact, it was only a Montreal snowstorm in the past week that prevented me from visiting with her one final time. My very last message to her offered my apologies for not coming due to the weather and asked her for some suggestions of recipes that she felt I should write about in my forthcoming review of her latest masterpiece cookbook, “The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.” It was the only time that I ever sent her a message that was not answered.
Many of us know something about Norene. We know her expertise at being a gourmand and having the ability to have everyone around her feel that they could easily become gourmet chefs as well. Her cookbooks grace practically every Jewish kitchen in Canada and throughout the world. Her accomplishments are too numerous to mention. Yet it is her family of “Noreners” that will keep her legacy alive for generations.
Never has a day gone by that “Norene’s Kitchen,” her celebrated Facebook page, did not have a plethora of comments, questions, quotes and shared cooking ideas among the more than 10,000 followers in the group. Each Friday, from around the world, wishes of Shabbat Shalom would resonate on the page. Pictures of what individuals had made to delight the palates of their family and friends were shared widely.
Questions were asked on a daily basis of why a recipe had disappointed; pointers were given about the best way to frost, defrost, saute, sear and char. Norene herself eagerly responded to the needs of her online “family.” Yet it goes even deeper than that. The family became so attached, that when a Norener had a family crisis it was shared on the site. Prayers were offered, suggestions, if feasible, were made, and tears were shed. The longer that each person was a member of the family, the more attached they would become to each other. How much more so must her family feel her loss.
At this moment, the Noreners out there are sharing their grief over the loss of their “queen.” There is no doubt in my mind that the group will continue with the same devotion and enthusiasm as they have in the past. I am sure that Norene was well aware of the fact that although she taught so many how to cook, bake and prepare delicacies for their tables, what she did most amazingly was teach a group of strangers how to care about each other with love, patience and respect. She encouraged a sisterhood and brotherhood (yes, many men gained from this group) who did not notice any type of differences between people. We were all one with Norene.
It is my wish that her many accomplishments be shared and that we emulate her graciousness and kindness. Rest in peace, dear Norene. Baruch Dayan Ha’Emet.
Nina Glick is living in Bergenfield after many years of service to the Montreal Jewish community with Rabbi Mordechai Glick. They can be reached at [email protected]