Sunday, November 14, 2010

kitchen time

Every friday my parents babysit my nephew during my sister-in-law's school day. The other days of the week she has a childcare situation set up, but on fridays, its off to the grandparents house he goes. Which he loves. And which, staying at my parents house right now, I also love. I reap the benefits of seeing my bitty fox cub without the responsibility of having to feed and change him, make sure he takes naps when he gets fussy and keep him happy for 8 hrs straight. I just get to stop in the kitchen and make faces at him and pick him up and squeeze him for a bit and then head to work. Yesterday, I was free until noon and got to have most of the morning with 'lil toots' (pronounced with the short u of 'put') who loves to spend time on the floor of the kitchen playing with tupperware while gramma barb baked multiple cakes and other baked goods for different events this weekend. My mom is taking the role of gramma very seriously. I think alex wasnt more than a day old when she was already in the kitchen baking cookies. I reminded her it would be more than a year before he could eat them and she said, 'yes, but the parents of our little one will need to fortify themselves, wont they? They deserve gramma's cookies too...'
she comes by it honest, tho. My grandma fox was an amazing baker and I dont think there was a moment we spent in her house that the cookie jar was empty. It was always on a low shelf in the kitchen and we checked it the moment we arrived. I mean, after we hugged and kissed grandma, of course. Cookies, 6oz coke bottles and sugary cereal. That was how we were spoiled at grandma fox's house.
The cookies and coke will continue on to the next generation from my mom to our sweet pea (sugary cereal has always been off limits in my parents house and I will throw a fit if they loosen that prohibition for the grandchildren).
The thing about seeing alex play around on the floor of the kitchen (the same one I played on) while mom baked, was how strongly it brought back memories of cooking with my mom when I was little. Bigger than the peanut, but not by too much. I was 'mom's little helpers' in the kitchen early. She had a tiny apron I wore and the way the kitchen was set up at the time there was a little corner of counter with the fridge right up next to it so she could stand facing on side of the corner and work while I sat on the other side with cabinets to my right, the fridge to my left and mom's right hip directly in front of me. It was the perfect position from which to learn how to cook. And just to sit and babble at mom while she worked or ask a thousand questions and have her explain every single thing she was doing and why. It was from this position I learned by osmosis how to make cookies and pies and muffins and bread and watched her make dinner countless times. It was my alone time with mom. Being a middle child made it hard to feel like i was ever not one of a crowd, so the times I got to spend alone with either parent were really precious. And part of me knew that a lot of why I got to have this was that I was the only girl child. Not that the boys didnt take their turns in the little cooking alcove with mom, watching her every move, enjoying the time with her and tasting whatever she was making, but I think my tenure of having mom's cooking moments with me was akin to an apprenticeship more than my brothers'. It was somewhat apparent to me that because I was the female progeny, the family recipes needed to be passed down to me, and I was the one who would make the most use of the knowledge of how to make the perfect pie crust. Which im not denying, I use that recipe and technique often and am very grateful for it. But I feel bad the boys didnt get as much learning around the culinary things in life and in our family as I did. Im the one who knows how to make manicotti shells (and thats only because my mom sat her mother-in-law down and got the recipe out of her years ago so someone would know). There has been a time in my life where I resented this socialization, and then a time when I felt bad that the boys didnt get as much of this instilled in them, and now, I think, I am just really glad someone in the family knows these things. And if the boys wanna know later on when we are the oldest generation hanging around in the living world, they can ask. Or if their spouses or children wanna know, and didnt get the opportunity to learn it directly from gramma barb, (tho I hope to god they do, cuz there is nothing like it, I gotta tell you) at least one of us will know.
Maybe this is stupid, to think this way. To put a lot of emphasis on how the older generation did something. Cuz I dont cook like my mom at all. She says 'if you can read, you can cook,' which I think is mostly true, but I have never followed a recipe exactly in my life and feel the need for substitution and improvisation a lot in what I do. And I dont bake like her either cuz I am always (at least attempting to be) making vegan baked goods which turns a lot the rules she taught me on their heads. So why is it im so hung up on things like pie crust and kentucky colonels (the best candy out there, made at christmas time with a bourbon-soaked pecan a the center of a fondant coated in chocolate) needing to be done just like grandma and gramma? I dunno. Because it brings me back to a time I was so sure of grandmas love that I got so I didnt even have to look in the cookie jar to know it was full as well as a time I was so safe in the corner of the counter being trusted with the family secrets and surrounded by the smells that meant home and food and love, all of which has become the definition of mother to me. And if I can help transfer those feelings of love and trust and safety to my family's next generation, im all for it.

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