The kitchen can be a canvas…Cooking is an art…
This is the time of year I think a lot of my father or my grandmother. Both have passed away, but there are times I can still hear what they might direct me to do when things get tough. I was thinking about the upcoming holidays a few days ago and began to remember some things from my childhood that were very happy times.
I remember when I was five or six, being in my grandmother’s tiny kitchen and watching her work her magic on her own type of canvas–her stove and kitchen counter! I would stand up on a chair and just watch her, all the while being fascinated as she could make anywhere from 5-7 types of food at the same time! IF there is one thing she was exceptional at it was multi-tasking.
Cooking to me is an art and everyone has to do it via their OWN method–just like she did. I could never hope to have as much talent as she did. IN fact, I’m lucky if I don’t burn the house down! Putting it together and prepping is one thing, but remembering to set the timer is my biggest challenge! Back in those days I never once saw a measuring cup in her hand. I saw her measure everything out with her hands a shot glass or a plain tablespoon from the time I was very small. I promise you I never recalled seeing a measuring cup that house until the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.
I would stand on a chair, being that I was small and petite for my age and quietly watch her. One day she put two eggs on the table by me and told me to crack them open and put them in a mixing bowl for her. It took me a little bit since I had to stand on the chair and balance, but I manged to crack them on the side of the bowl like she did and get them in there without shell pieces falling into the bowl.
I got really good at this little task and eventually would run back and forth to the refrigerator for her to get other things she needed. I figured out very quickly that whoever was willing to do a little work got to lick the bowl when she made cakes, brownies or fudge! My brother would get very upset at this, because he didn’t want to work in the kitchen but she gave him the beaters to quiet him down! He preferred working outside with Grandpa. When she cooked porcupine meatballs, the herd tried to devour them before everyone got theirs every time! For those of you who are uncertain, they are called that because they contain rice–it has nothing to do with consuming porcupine meat. I did get asked about this once. I may live in the south, but the myth of the roadkill cuisine is one of the funniest phenomenons. Many not native to here think we actually DO have a “roadkill cafe” somewhere in the south.
Some of you have an interesting time converting measures too. Grandma never had that issue. Like I said, she measured with her hands. If one thinks that converting from English measures to metric is hard enough–try converting to EITHER from the southern system. Here is an example.
How many of you know what a number 1 can of peaches is or a number 2 can of green beans? Not many of you. Other than watching Grandma measure with her hands, this was the lingo I had to learn–and after while, you learn which cans of what are which very quickly. Now I do believe that if you get older cookbooks–like from the 1910’s-50’s (Southern Ones) it gets explained, but I will not swear to it.
I would watch my grandma as she would quickly switch from one area to the next, moving rapidly and having a fluid motion as if she were, as I said, painting a canvas. She had a grace in her movement that I cannot even begin to describe here. When the aromas filled the air, the herd often tried to come in to be nosy or sneak a taste and she would run them out there every time!
I can promise you that almost every Sunday there were no less than 10 of us around, and there were many days there were at least 20 people who would show up–and she always had made more than enough for everyone! Being that I was the runt, when she saw the herd coming, she and my mother made sure that the little ones always got fed first–after Grandpa! One thing I did notice is that with all that hard work, my mother and my grandmother were always the LAST to eat! They would wait sometimes until everyone else even had dessert!
This had a profound impact on me as I had children of my own. They always ate first–and still do. I loved doing that. My sons would laugh because I would make a huge mess in the kitchen, but they loved to eat. I learned from my children that nobody cooks like “Mom”, looks as good as “Mom”, and definitely does not sing like “Mom”. Music was part of my family. My mother played piano. Her mother could play harmonica and dance a jig. My other grandmother played the organ. I simply sang. It didn’t bother me to sing around my family, but I hated singing in choir and I still, to this day, hate singing in front of others. My sons say to this day I should sing publicly.
Why do that? I can paint with a pen…
This time of year, I can remember a lot of what my grandmother put on the table. Chicken and Dressing OR turkey. Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans, black-eyed peas, home-made biscuits, beans, cornbread, etc…Yes that is a lot of food for one meal but when the herd showed up, leftovers were never an issue!
There are days I wish I could go back into that tiny little kitchen and watch her at work all over again. I would give anything to possess such talent. My mother can do this, but somehow I ended up with an incredible ability to make a mess and never manage to produce what she did on her canvas. Maybe someday I’ll get to do this with my own grandchildren, if I ever have any, but I will use the measuring cups. My hands are small anyway. Grandma’s hands were large!
I love it when I can get fried green tomatoes, pinto beans, cornbread and fried potatoes! Yes, it’s not eating clean but it’s good! In fact, I’m going to hunt some of that down RIGHT NOW! I hope all of you have a great Holiday season filled with love and peace!