Chapter Two: A Widow’s Time of Adjustment (and a Quiche Lorraine)

This may sound cliched, but there are some journeys you have to go on alone. Widowhood is one of them. And if you think widowhood isn’t easy, neither is chapter two: the Time of Adjustment.

In my personal life experience, there’s never been a time when I’ve learned so much.

What if I told you that sudden single life in your seventies is a totally different ballgame? There’s no maybe about it—it is! Once you get old, dating as you used to know it is over. And there’s no denying the fact that you have baggage.

I thought that women outlived men, but for some reason unknown to me, dating sites are filled with older men. They abound. And, unfortunately, I’m discovering that men in their older years are needier. They’re nothing at all like the younger men I knew in the past. But life takes its toll on us all, and as our health diminishes, we become more vulnerable.

Along my life’s journey, especially the youthful road I traveled with my husband, I found that life and marriage was composed of a million little things. I was aware of the big things in later life, such as poor health, major sickness, and death. But even though I thought about them occasionally, I shelved these thoughts whenever I could.

Now that I’m a widow and my husband of fifty-five years is gone from this life, I’ll share with you some of the tidbits I’ve learned so far on this part of my journey. If you’re a widow and you’ve grieved (and I know you did), then you may have discovered the next, and final, step…acceptance. Acceptance that your life will be different.

There’s a great deal to accept! In widowhood, everything in your life is affected. Everything changes dramatically, including the way you eat (alone), the way you make decisions, your finances, your self-esteem, your confidence, your friends, your rhythms, your very identity. If you escape these changes without mental, physical, cognitive, behavioral, and social traumas, you’re lucky. Or so I’m told.

No one who loves ever escapes this heartbreaking upheaval. But here’s the new lesson to be learned: you will survive. And you will need to gain a newfound appreciation for life’s pleasures.

As I find my way anew, I’m discovering that I’m more resilient, confident, and even, at times, wiser! I’m losing many of the insecurities that were part of my youth, perhaps because I’ve had to survive and reach into strengths I didn’t know I had.

Needless to say, as I reentered the social world, I found some dramatically different rules. Here’s one or two of those rules (I say with a smile): First, if you have a “house” bra, or a bra you wear only in the house, you’ve been without a man for too long! Second, I know you think you can wear that pair of cotton underwear one more time (you know, the ones with holes in them) because they’re clean. But do yourself a favor and get rid of them. I did!

During the holidays, I visited a friend’s home, where their daughter was having a slumber party with a few friends. These girls were only around twelve or thirteen, and I caught a glimpse of how the bookends of our life look from such a distance in time, between girlhood and widowhood.

Falling in love is one of these bookends, and becoming a widow is the other. The beginning and the end. I’d forgotten how giddy school girls are. The conversation between these lovely young ladies ranged on everything from their studies to makeup to food to, of course, boys. I’d forgotten how much girls talk about boys—and even about men, who are yet a mystery to be unfolded. It’s clear that they instinctively understand how men will come to be a large part of their future.

In fact, the casual observer might conclude this is all they think about. But look at me! I thought. I became a widow and, much to my surprise, men have become an important part of my life again!

Yes, I admit I’m as giddy as a school girl. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see that I’m naïve and more trusting than I should be. I’ve become a thirteen-year-old girl myself!

I’ve had fun on the dating sites. I figured that if you meet men in a bar, you’ll get barflies. Perhaps meeting men at church, if that works for you, is a better option. But today everyone will tell you that meeting on dating sites is the new way. It definitely broadens the choices you encounter.

I’ve never been so scared and excited as I am in this phase of my life. I’ve begun to think totally for myself, and I’m making plans that are changing my life in ways I never would have dared try as a married woman. I’ve gone from holding my breath to finally being able to exhale!

If you can open yourself up to this acceptance and newfound appreciation of life’s pleasures, you can survive…and even thrive.

And, much to my surprise, I met a very nice man. We’re taking it very slow as we learn more about each other. We’re both hungry for nurture and nourishment, so I made this simple but elegant quiche lorraine for us. He was skeptical at first, having made quiche lorraine himself. But after a savory mouthful, he admitted that his was “not as good as this.”

This recipe is a very good way to bring something old yet new to our relationship, and to see if we have similar tastes. Enjoy!

Quiche Lorraine: The Ultimate Brunch Meal

Chef’s note: The flavor of this classic quiche made it famous from the start. It’s simple yet rich beyond all expectations. After some refrigeration, the center will also set to perfection. I want to mention here that many people overcook quiche. It reheats well in a toaster oven or conventional oven, but I do not recommend microwaving it if possible.

1 homemade pie crust (see my recipe here), or the best quality store-bought pie crust you can find
5 large eggs
1 cup half and half or ¾ cup heavy cream
1 cup whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated nutty Swiss cheese (I used Emmentaler)
1 (6–8 oz.) slice thick-cut ham with no nitrate or nitrites, cut into ½-inch dice
1 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
¼ cup high-quality grated Parmesan cheese
Special equipment: deep dish pie pan (9–10 inch)


  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Butter pie plate and gently fit the pie crust into it. Set aside.
  2. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, half and half or heavy cream, milk, and all of the grated Swiss cheese.
  3. Add ham and fresh-cracked black pepper to the mixture. Mix gently but well. Pour mixture into the prepared pie shell. Sprinkle top with Parmesan cheese.
  4. Bake 35 minutes or until the center of the quiche is nearly set but still jiggles. Turn off oven and leave the quiche in for 10 more minutes.

Images from iStock/Douglas Wielfaert (main), Lesyy (quiche).

Phyllis Quinn

Phyllis Quinn is a chef, food writer, and founder of Udderly Cultured, a class that teaches how to make homemade fresh mozzarella, butter, yogurt, cottage cheese, and other cultured products. Private lessons are available. For a reservation, call Phyllis at 970-221-5556 or email her at Rediscover nearly lost cooking methods and get one-of-a-kind recipes in her books The Slow Cook Gourmet and Udderly Cultured: The Art of Milk Fermentation.

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