It was 7:30 on a Sunday morning, and I was just biding my time until the grocery store opened so I could buy a brisket. It’s not unusual for me to wake up thinking about dinner, but Jewish brisket is outside my normal rotation. Then again, that particular week had been anything but normal.

I had spent much of the previous week sitting by grandmother’s bed in hospice, recounting happy memories and craving all the foods I ate at her house—her salad, her fruit salad, cottage cheese, bitter coffee with flavored creamer. I got the call at 2 a.m. on Saturday night that she had passed away at 89, due to complications from Parkinson’s. Unsurprisingly, my sleep was sparse and patchy for the five and a half hours between getting the call and deciding to get up and get a brisket. It made sense, then, that I’d be looking for soothing, hearty comfort food, a meal I had at my grandparents’ house many times.