I read a lot of food blogs, as I am sure you can imagine. More and more, these bloggers are having books published….cookbooks, mostly, but some of them have published memoirs, peppered with recipes. Memoirs of their childhood, or memoirs of dreamy travels and all of the food that they ate.
I am sure that it will come as no surprise to you when I tell you that I would love to publish a book. As I am not really a “niche” cook (i.e. someone who cooks a certain style or type of food all the time) I can’t imagine how I will ever piece together a cookbook. Besides, I love to write about food, not just writing recipes. The more I think about this, the more I wonder from what angle I could approach this book. I haven’t done much traveling, at least not the kind where you revel in the food and think about it long after the trip is over.
I started thinking about my childhood. What memories could I conjure up? I’ve shared more than once that my grandmother was my biggest influence, without a doubt….but I don’t think I could write a memoir about it. I have lots of memories, but not memories of events as much as memories of things.
There’s a funny story behind my grandmother’s egg souffle….
Her precision in baking the cookies was mimicked in her Saturday night burger making (she made burgers literally every Saturday night…we ate dinner at her house almost every Saturday, watching Hee Haw from the dining room table). She would carefully divide the meat into equal parts, roll into a ball, press into a patty, and stack them with squares of waxed paper between for my grandfather to take to the grill. She would even cut the corners off of the squares of cheese so that it would fit perfectly.
I remember sitting at her table, eating beef stew made in her pressure cooker. I can hear that pressure cooker, which she used on a very regular basis, in my head. My modern pressure cooker doesn’t sound like hers did, which might be the reason I never use it. Every Christmas when my mom cooks a standing rib roast the smell floods my senses with memories of my childhood, because my grandmother’s rib roast made such an impression on me. While her kitchen was stocked with plenty of convenience foods, she cooked from scratch almost every night and would not even entertain the thought of getting a microwave (my grandfather bought one after she got sick and he took on the cooking duties….a job he was quite good at as well). I remember the angry whistle of her tea kettle, which she and my grandfather used almost every day, to fill cleaned out milk jugs with iced tea, or to make instant coffee (Sanka, anyone?) or breakfast tea (both of which I remember my grandfather drinking, but not my grandmother).
Looking through her orange recipe clipping book, I find myself pining to go back to childhood, if only for a moment, to absorb the memories more thoroughly. I wish that I had spent more time in the kitchen, watching her, learning. I wish that I had the wherewithall when she passed away when I was fourteen to write down more of her recipes….but 14-year-olds are not usually thinking about growing up and getting married and cooking…and taking pictures of their food to post on the internet, which was still basically unheard of when I was in 9th grade.
In my kitchen, I have my grandmother’s big wooden salad bowl and small salad serving bowls. I have her amber-colored square Pyrex dish, and her dark green juice glasses. I have a stack of wicker TV trays. I long to go back and lay claim to the Sunbeam mixer (if just for the memories)…to her tea kettle, and her copper-bottomed Revere pots and pans. Even more, though, I long to go back and lay claim to my memories….to live in my childish body again, to know what I know now….to take it all in, to write it all down. I haven’t seen my grandmother in nineteen years, but every time I’m in the kitchen I feel close to her. I just wish I could put it all into words!
Strawberry pie was a springtime favorite at my grandmother’s house.