Recipes for Love

Ever holiday I find myself seated at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, sifting through a drawer of recipes. The search is as much for family recipes as it is for memories. It doesn’t take long before I find them both.

Before my Mom and Aunties passed they gifted me a few of their kitchen secrets and well-used kitchen items. There’s Busha’s (Grandma’s) hand-forged, three pronged fork. The stubby handle fits perfectly in the palm of a hand when cutting in shortening. Busha cooked on a woodstove. Any meal was a laborious monumental task. I don’t think the stove was ever cold to the touch.

I treasure Mom’s solid wood rolling pin and flour sack towels. Mom always rolled out her dough on a well floured flour sack. Thin from two generations of washings, I handle them with extreme care and use them exclusively for rolling out dough. To find one of Mom’s recipes with actual conventional measurement is not the norm. Her measurements were by feel or taste. It’s probably why Mom would call me up to come over and “watch” her make something. She would often tell me, “I’m not going to live forever. If you want to learn how to make this keep watching.” I’m glad I did so her love can nourish the next generation.

There’s Auntie Anna’s substantially cracked and chipped blue speckled enamelware pan. It must have been a favorite based on its condition. I’m so happy she held on to it and passed it on to me. Believe it or not nothing ever sticks to that pan! Auntie Anna’s cooking instructions were loud, clear and concise. Her stern direction carried over from her many years running the kitchen for the local church’s annual picnic.

Then there’s Auntie Rosie’s titanic sized cast iron frying pan. In her later years, arthritis prevented her from lifting the heavy weight. The pan than became a permanent fixture on her stove-top. Cleanup was a wipe or two with a paper towel. Still is.

I can’t forget Auntie Vickey’s delectable dessert recipes. The handwritten recipes have yellowed with age. Torn edges of the fragile paper taped together several times. The tape too has yellowed. A busy farmer’s wife, Auntie Vickey’s countertops and kitchen table held much of the overflow from her cupboards. She could make a meal fit for king in minutes!

If you haven’t guessed, I am descended from a long line of amazing Polish women that knew their way around a kitchen. Ever since I’ve been old enough to hold a  wooden spoon in my hand, they pressed me into service at some task that was age appropriate. Any gathering of the family cooks ended with a meal. Crumbs on the table were never casually wiped to the floor. Licked fingers firmly pressed the bits against the tabletop. The finger with moist crumbs attached was promptly licked clean. Ever last crumb of life’s deliciousness was savored.

The strong Polish women in my life grew up in a generation that didn’t say, “I love you,” out loud very often, if ever. Words of love may have not been shared but what they did share was the recipe’s to taste it. What else could be created in the heart of the home—the kitchen—but love?

God Boss

Conversation on the pre-school van I drive:

Little Boy: “Bus driver, did you know that Santa works for God”?

Me: “No, I didn’t”.

Little Boy: “He does! Mom says so. It’s because God watches over us…everyone…EVERYTHING…ALL THE TIME! Not just at Christmas like Santa”.

Me: “Isn’t Santa supposed to watch you all year long to know if you’ve been bad or good?”

Little Boy: “Yea, but Santa just watches you, not everything. God knows what you’re really feeling too”.

Me: “I guess you could say God created the business (life) …lol… so that would make him the boss in a way.”

I thought this part of our conversation was kind of funny. Since one of the first things that pops out of their four-year-old mouths when another little rider tells them to do something is, “You’re not the boss of me!”

Then the wisdom is revealed.

Little Boy: “Did you know when you’re sad you can go inside your head and talk to him. God, I mean. Not Santa. It makes you feel better”.

Me: “I do and it makes me really happy to know that you do too”.

As I write this I can’t help but relive the feeling that flushed through me when he spoke his words. I wish you could have felt the feeling in his words, heard the inflection in his voice and the way his speech softened and slowed. You just knew the conversations were heart to heart.