Fresh peas were on the stove and needing my attention: a little more water, some seasoning, a few gentle stirs. As I lifted the lid and tended them, I had a flashback of years gone by.
I saw my grandmother’s kitchen and remembered the constant aroma of good food. Food cooked with skill and love, food that never disappointed. How many times did I walk to my grandparents’ house after school and help myself to peas and cornbread from the oven? Before we were taught it was dangerous to leave food sitting out, food was commonly kept in the oven between the noon and night meals. Her peas were so delicious I didn’t bother with reheating, just filled a plate with room temperature field peas and helped myself to a piece of cornbread, and indulged. If I close my eyes and think really hard, I can still taste them.
Staring down at my boiling peas, I moved on to my mother’s kitchen and saw them there. There was a certain pot of cast iron with a yellow lid that she used for cooking peas. I thought about picking the peas, then shelling them from a huge white dishpan. What wasn’t for immediate use was processed for the freezer.
Some things cannot be reproduced by assembly line companies, and for me, field peas is one of them. So through my years of cooking for a family, there have always been fresh peas on my table or those of my own preserving. Are mine as good as my mother’s or grandmother’s? Close, but not as good as theirs.
Flashbacks are bittersweet. Things that will never be again can bring melancholy. Remembering times around a family table with parents and grandparents no longer living kind of puts an ache in the heart. It all happened so fast – losing them and growing this old. But if I can move past the sadness and be grateful for those who left me with this legacy, it gets better. I always, always loved to cook and I know it was because of the high standard set before me. I can honor Dulcie Spencer and Louise Spencer Luffman today by carrying on the tradition of preparing in my own kitchen the very best I can do, and never just “making do.”
Father, I give you thanks for these two women who taught me the art of cooking. May I never forget the time and love that went into every dish they put on the table. And, may I never fail to remember the other lesson they taught me about food: always share what you have.