Friday, September 21, 2007
I spent most of the summer on the balcony sipping iced coffee, inputting my novel and watching life go by on the street below.
With cooler weather coming, I’ll spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Of all the rooms in all the homes that I lived in as a child, the ones I remember best are the kitchens. They were always light and warm and cozy, and they always smelled of good things.
As I sit here in my own kitchen sipping my spicy chocolate coffee, the white chili simmering on the stove sends spirals of steam to further fog the kitchen windows as will the jalapeno cornbread later in the day. The aromas, mixed with other scents, take me back in time and I remember those other kitchens – Mom’s.
Coming home from school, each of us children would stop in the kitchen and Mom would hand us a bowl to stir, a pot to watch or onions to chop, cheese to grate. We’d sit on a counter or stand at the stove and share our day with her. She would listen to it all and laugh at the old jokes that each of us discovered new as we grew, and pretend they were new to her, too.
There were five of us, three boys and two girls, and we all learned to cook just by doing and watching while Mom did what Mom always did. She was in the kitchen when we left for school in the morning and she was there when we came home from school, be it 2 or 3 or 4 o’clock. Food for her was not a fast food affair. It was prepared in seemingly infinite diversity from scratch.
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays would find Daddy in the kitchen, too. He’d show us how to flip eggs over-easy and pancakes without a spatula or try a new recipe from one of the big cookbooks with no pictures. Mom would threaten that she’d have to put the stove in the yard and hose it down before she could use it again. Then she’d laugh, sip her coffee and shake her head at some of our misses an messes. I learned a lot about cooking in those kitchens and more about love.
We’re all grown now, and Daddy’s long passed, but we still gather to build more memories. We go to Mom’s or my place, my sister’s or one of my brother’s. Whichever home we gather in over the years, the chores are still shared. We still create new dishes, we stir and chop and mix and taste, and recall old recipe successes and failures. Or, we just pull up a stool to the kitchen bar and chat, sip our coffee or tea, a glass of wine or a beer and discuss the small matters that make up our lives: the new car, in-laws, ex’s, jobs, and whether it will rain tomorrow. We remember some various Christmases and Thanksgivings by the food we made. “Remember that yellow squash cornbread dressing that was so good, or the wild rice ring that let go its Portobello gravy center before it made it to the table?”
We set the table, say the blessing, pour the wine and break the bread and after the meal is over, we linger, sated before empty plates, loathe to break the circle. © Perle Champion