There’s just something about cooking that soothes me. Here it is, after midnight, on an ordinary Tuesday, and I’ve spent the evening mixing and blending things together to take to a potluck at work tomorrow. My husband and I work for the same institution, though in different departments, but the end of the summer marks the annual picnic for several departments, including both of ours. As usual, I decided to try two brand new recipes, in the hopes that my reputation for bringing good things will remain intact for another year. So even after a long day at work and a double-date dinner with friends, the thought of whipping up two dishes for the potluck brings peace rather than frustration.
Without question, that comes from my mother. As kids, we were always plopped up on the kitchen counter from early on; Mom always described it that “as soon as they could stir with a spoon” we were on the counter helping, with the added corollary that it had to be somewhat neatly, I’m sure. Mom was a renaissance woman who managed to do many things well, including cook. She belonged to several art and writing groups, and she always volunteered to host the annual Christmas parties, just so she could bake and cook and prepare amazingly bountiful feasts. I grew up thinking that every household had parties every weekend in December, because that’s just the way it was in our house. Christmas cookie baking started in September, when the kids would head back to school. She’d bake up batch after batch during the day, storing them away from our snitching fingers in the large freezer out in the utility room. The freezer would slowly fill, between September and Thanksgiving, so that our turkey had to be a fresh one, since there was no room left in the freezer by the middle of November. Mom was an equal opportunity cook, ensuring that her sons cooked almost as well as her daughters did. I still remember going to visit my brother’s house soon after he got married, and seeing his shock and horror as his wife summarily tossed the chicken carcass and liquid bounty from the Sunday dinner into the garbage. That was worse than throwing away good potato water, and he told her so in so many words. I bet he’s still in charge of the Sunday chicken, twenty plus years later. After Mom’s first illness, when the doctor told her to take six months off and relax, she decided to put together a cookbook out of all her recipes, so that the kids would always have a printed version of the family’s treasured recipes. Little did we know that the decision would include being her taste-testers during those six months –for good and for bad– but at least most of the dishes were pretty darn tasty.
So tonight, as late as it is, I’ll go to bed smiling softly and thinking of Mom, Sunday chicken noodle dinners, and family. And tomorrow, I’ll bravely take in my Gazpacho Pasta Salad and my Chocolate Strawberry Cheesecake bars to see how they play out with the potluck crowd. Catch up with me later, and I’ll share the verdict on the new dishes!
Hope you’re mixing up something good in your world.