There are words in the back of my mind, usually accompanied with the sound of my mother’s voice. From the time I was little, these admonishments and pleadings and rules of how to be come popping up like bubbles in a pan of hot boiling water. They make me smile.
The first I remember was, “Just take two bites, Amanda.” Followed by, “How do you know until you try it?” There had probably been something green on my plate. I hated vegetables as a kid. Now a few decades later, ahem, I pour over gardening catalogues that arrive in January and start planning my vegetable plot for spring. There are 3 different types of turnip seed on the ktchen table waiting to be planted now. A draught this late summer has prevented the ground being broken, but a good rain yesterday should help. The point? I love vegetables now. My 3 year old self, nope.
The second food related thing I remember is about coffee. My family, on both sides, have always been big coffee drinkers. I remember being little and seeing my mother and her sisters having coffee. I asked for a cup and was told, “You are too little for coffee.” I begged again and Mama said, with a wink at her sisters, ” You’re too little, coffee will turn your ears black.”
“Your ears aren’t black,” I reasoned.
“That’s because we’re grown-ups, ” Mama explained.
I didn’t drink coffee till I turned fifty. And I’ve made up for all those lost cups through the years.
The third food related directive was to eat the slightly over cooked whatever was put on my plate. My daddy once said that my mother was the only person he knew who would serve burnt sausage. My oldest brother piped up and said, “Aunt Gayle does too.” Daddy replied, “That figures.” Mama and Aunt Gayle were identical twins. Figures…
So, I was told to eat the occasionally burnt sausage, toast, pork chop, with the promise that it would make me pretty. Dubious as to whether or not that would really happen, I asked, “Did you eat burnt toast?”
“Do you think I’m pretty?” she answered back.
“Well, then eat your toast.” Waste not, want not.
The forth food related thing my mother taught me was to never return a dish empty. If someone was kind enough to bring a homemade goodie it’s a good thing to reciprocate. Years ago, when I was a young mother, the neighbor lady called and said she had been baking and had muffins for my boys. We enjoyed her baked goods and a few days later I returned her pan with something that I had baked. She was surprised at my offering and I explained my mother’s take on returning dishes. And then the game of baked goods tag began. She sent more muffins. I sent back cookies. The last time she showed up at the front door, handed me the pan filled with goodies and said, “Keep the pan, I don’t want it back.” Maybe just a thank you note would have sufficed.
The fifth related food thing was born out of pure kindness. When you’re invited to someone’s home, eat whatever is offered. No matter how humble or poorly seasoned or whatever, eat it. They did their best and opened their home to you. Be gracious.
The sixth thing Mama taught me, but only after taking months clearing out cabinets and cupboards before her house was sold. I found beautiful dishes and serving pieces hidden away. So, folks, use the pretty dishes. Life needs beauty. Life needs connection to who we are. Use Grandma’s dishes.
Just some thoughts and rememberings of simple things that shape adulthood.
Blessings form the Exile’s Kitchen.