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A final recipe: Live life to the fullest

by Mary Powell
For the Sequim Gazette


Marian Platt had many notches in her belt of life. For one, she was a published author, having written a cookbook and then a food column for the Sequim Gazette and RV Life magazine. With that, she was a good — no, make that a great — cook, a gardener accomplished at growing herbs, vegetables and fruit trees, and a seasoned traveler, both in an RV and jetting about Europe. As Marian put it, “I’ve done everything and more in my life, have had two wonderful kids and two wonderful husbands.”

 

Unfortunately, she recently added another notch to that belt, this one unwanted. In early January, Marian was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer that already had metastasized to the liver. Although the diagnosis was dire, Marian, with the approval of her team of doctors, opted to buy a bit more time and have chemotherapy treatment. She was buoyed by the fact she had the same type of cancer as Patrick Swayze, who, she said, “lived for 22 months.” She was optimistic, but in mid-February began to have pain and tire easily.

 

Marian went into cardiac failure on Feb. 21 and died peacefully, surrounded by her family, on Feb. 24.

 

Marian had many friends in and around the Sequim area, but probably was best known for her popular “Kitchen Korner” column published in the Sequim Gazette for the past 15 or so years. There always was something new to learn from reading Marian’s column, be it about the trend in the weather or how to pick the perfect peach for a mouth-watering pie or cobbler. And of course, the myriad of recipes she shared with readers made us want to go to the kitchen and try her latest recommendation. I’m sure many a Sequim cook has Marian Platt recipe clippings tucked away in cookbooks or cabinets.

 

About 10 years ago, Marian began writing another cooking column for the RV Life magazine. She and her late husband, Arthur Platt, spent nearly 45 years RVing, traveling throughout the United States.

Already a gourmet cook, she learned to prepare simple meals in the smaller RV kitchens. Once, when reading RV Life, Marian noticed the lack of a food column. She immediately wrote to the publisher offering to write a column, even going as far as to suggest a working title, “What’s Cooking,” which stuck.

Mike Ward, editor of RV Life, said Marian was wonderful to work with and he appreciated her reliability and accuracy. “I’m amazed at how she always came up with interesting themes for her columns, never repeated herself and always kept it fresh. Readers say they use her recipes and get great results.”

 

In his upcoming column titled “Something’s Missing,” which will appear in the March issue of RV Life, Ward writes he enjoyed reading her discussions of cuisine, food origins and related trivia.

 

“From Marian’s column (among other things) I learned that gelatin dessert, which was invented in 1845, didn’t become popular until someone decided to call it Jell-O.”

 

Marian was a seasonal cook: her recipes reflected the time of year, such as pumpkin recipes for October, fruit desserts in the summer. She recounts a funny story about Barney, her second husband, telling her he was hungry for a bowl of chili. She in turn told him she didn’t cook chili until October, so the poor guy had to wait a few months for his bowl of homemade chili.

An early learner

Marian began cooking at the age of 10, having only taken what was then called home economics in the seventh grade. But, she said, her mother hated to cook and was happy to have Marian take over the kitchen.

 

Marian grew up in Southern California, met her first husband, Arthur, while in high school and became engaged on her graduation day. Thirteen months later they were married. While Art served in the Navy, Marian attended college. They lived in Whittier, Calif., for 30 years and raised a son and daughter. She had two grandchildren.

 

Wanting to “get out of L.A.,” in 1982, Marian and Art moved to Sequim.

 

“I fell in love when we found Sequim,” Marian said. She loved everything about the North Olympic Peninsula, the changing seasons, the beaches, camping and fishing.

 

Another love was writing and with that she decided to take a creative writing class at Peninsula College. Then she realized another of her dreams: to write a food column for a small-town newspaper. Luckily for us, “Kitchen Korner” was born.

 

A few years later she would publish “From My Kitchen Window,” a substantial regional cookbook that included not only recipes of all sorts, but again, tidbits about the Sequim-Dungeness Valley and how to include local foods in everyday meals. She was particularly pleased when the Sequim Library purchased two copies of the cookbook, which, by the way, remain on the shelves for checkout.

New beginnings

After nearly 55 years of marriage, Art died of a heart attack. It was at a grief recovery group that Marian met Barney Hall, who recently had lost his wife. Barney told Marian he would call her, but it took him three months to work up the courage. A few months of long walks on the beach, square-dance dates and picnics set the stage for a commitment ceremony and they lived happily ever after, as the saying goes.

 

Marian and Barney lived in a cozy house tucked in the woods on Chicken Coop Road for several years, the site of many dinner parties, family reunions and community gatherings. However, wanting to take life a little easier, with less yard work and house maintenance, they recently bought a condominium at Dominion Terrace in Sequim. They shared their home with one much-loved Westland highland terrier named Annie — full name Annie Laurie MacDuff. As for the camping, RVing bit, turns out Barney likes to fly, not camp. So Marian traded in her camping days for a trip to Europe, and again a trip to Scotland and Ireland.

 

“I never thought I would see those places, my first husband didn’t like to fly.” Marian said. “With Art and Barney, I had the best of both worlds.”

On a personal note

Marian and I became close friends in the short seven years we knew one another. We met when I came to Sequim to be the editor of the Sequim Gazette. She waited a week or two before she came to the office to introduce herself and bring me a hard copy of her then-weekly column, and to make sure I wasn’t willing to scrap the column — which I wasn’t. We’ve been having lunch every so often since.

 

It’s amazing we became friends, actually. First, I don’t cook, and when I do attempt it, something usually goes awry. My idea of dinner is to open a can of soup. Marian’s was to cook a turkey or roast, complete with fresh vegetables, potatoes (not from a box), rolls (again, not from a box), and of course, some scrumptious dessert. Reading a complicated recipe is a chore for me. I don’t know what a springform pan is, nor am I sure how to whisk something. These, however, were a part of Marian’s everyday vocabulary.

But we did share a love of reading, often enjoying the same book and delighting in reviewing it together.

And we loved our lunches out. It was only a couple of weeks ago that Marian and I met up for one of those lunch dates and after catching up a bit, she told me she had a “bombshell” to drop. I never expected it would the news she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She was, after all, a very vibrant, active, healthy woman.

 

She told me she wasn’t afraid, that a calm had settled over her. She was grateful for time to finish her bucket list, which at this point, included spending as much time as possible with family and — and this is so Marian — even planning her funeral. Like she said, she had done everything she wanted to do. Now, she said, it was time to take care of the endgame.

 

I hadn’t intended to write a column about Marian’s death. Instead, she and I were working on a piece that generally explained why “Kitchen Korner” was no longer going to be in the Gazette. I guess I explained that and more.

 

We’ll all miss Marian, those of us who called her friend, family or those who learned from a master how to make Turkish stuffed peppers, chocolate silk pecan pie (yum), or pumpkin walnut flapjacks. Marian brought us all sorts of wonderful recipes, but in the end she shared the most important recipe of all: to live life to the fullest.

 


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