I grew up watching. I watched my sisters fighting each other over who would wash and who would dry. I watched my brother play baseball, or his guitar, and go away when he joined the army. I watched my mother lay in bed healing after a number of surgeries. I watched my father sift his way through family history. With all this watching I learned many things about life. We didn’t have a lot of money filtering through hands, but there was always food to celebrate everything.
Our house was the house for celebrating. Someone was always stopping by on holidays, weekends or just whenever for coffee, cookies, candy or a warm meal. We didn’t have fancy meals, but we always had food to eat and good food at that.
You never knew in advance who was coming either. It wasn’t a planned thing like it is today; no let’s make a plan 3 weeks from Sunday. We would simply be making supper and Mom would say, “Who’s that pulling in the driveway?” Sure, there were planned events for anniversaries and birthdays, just like any other home, but more often than not, most visits were spontaneous, yet welcomed.
I remember one time, I’m not exactly sure how old I was, likely 8 or 9, when supper was planned for the family, our family of seven. But the meal grew as relatives arrived. Another potato was added to the pot, leaves were put in the table, more plates and cutlery were added, another jar of pickles fetched from the cupboard, and chairs and benches to accommodate all who came. Just as we were about to sit down, my mother was about to add the dumplings to the chicken stew simmering on the stove when she looked up and saw another car pulling into the driveway. She looked at me and said, “Jump up there and get that can of tomato juice.” I think it was close to 20 people around the table that night from an expected seven. I learned a lot that night, lessons I will not forget.
My Grandmother lived close by and baked everything from wedding cakes to fried cakes and bread, lots and lots of bread. When I was 13, Grandma started teaching neighborhood children to bake some of her special dishes. We paid $2 to go to her kitchen to learn sponge cake, fried cakes, bread, Chelsea buns and such. It may seem funny but yes, I did pay to go to Grandma’s Cooking school. The only thing I really remember learning was the sponge cake. I made sponge cake all the time. They were fast, delicious and I could whip one up in less than an hour, in just about any flavour.
That’s not the only place I learned to cook. I was a “Brownie” I wanted to be the first “Brownie” in the troop to be award her cooking badge. Our troop leaders thought it was too hard for 7 year-olds to cook entire meals for a family (which was the final requirement). I forget all the steps involved, but I do remember my mom saying she would make sure I did everything, teach me all the steps, but the final day, I would be on my own.
I remember that meal. I made what would now be referred to as “breakfast for supper”; bacon, eggs, toast, juice, coffee for the entire family of seven. It was served all at once, completely hot and I was the only “Brownie” to receive the cooking badge for many years to come. I remember I had to figure out how to do the toast for so many people so I toasted everything in the oven and it worked out.
Now, 40 years later, I’m still figuring things out. I don’t really use many recipes. I guess that’s one of the things I learned from my mother. Take a little of this, some of that and taste, but I’m learning that not everyone can do that. Not even all my family can do that, so I’m going to measure and likely weigh ingredients to write proper recipes just for you. Whether it’s trying to figure out how to create a crème brûlé without dairy and eggs or turkey stuffing without bread; I will find a way. I started this today because I believe there are things that should be shared and things that should be treasured. In the forty years I have been cooking I have learned many recipes at my mother’s side, but not everything. I have learned some by watching cooking shows. I have learned from friends, family and everyone in-between.
The kitchen is the heart of our homes. We gravitate there; we seek the smells of our childhood. That’s why realtors trick us to buy houses with the lure of fresh baked cookies and with potpourri of cinnamon. Join me in this journey as I create recipes for everyone, no matter your dietary needs and even reviews of cookbooks, restaurants, cooking shows…anything food related. Of course all opinions are personal. I just hope my personal opinions are helpful to you….later!