Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6 (ESV)
The kitchen is my comfort zone—my favorite place to be. I had 6 years of Home Economics—grades 7 through 12. Then, I had the day-to-day experience of my mother’s cooking. The kitchen was her comfort zone, too. I can’t imagine better meals than she put on our table. And then there was Mother’s mother, my Mama Dulcie. She was duly recognized as one of the best cooks around.
I don’t remember the first thing I ever cooked on my own. Maybe biscuits—a place many young cooks begin. My mother made her first pan of biscuits out of necessity when she was just 8 years old. Mama Dulcie cut her hand slicing meat for breakfast and it fell to Mother, the oldest child, to complete the meal. Mama Dulcie stood Mother on a stool to make her tall enough to reach the counter and then guided her through Biscuit Making 101.
I’m pretty sure my first credible baking was at about age 16 when I made the chocolate layer cake from the back of the Hershey’s Cocoa tin. Fudge Cake, they called it. Two layers of moist, delicate flavor covered with chocolate icing, also from the back of the box. It is still my preferred recipe for chocolate layer cake, though no longer found on today’s Hershey’s Cocoa containers. You will find one, but not this old and best one.
From the beginning, I made my own pie pastry. That recipe came from my first Better Homes and Garden Cook Book, bought during those years of high school Home Economics. I cherished that treasure trove of recipes from the moment it was placed in my hands. Through the years—late 50s until now—I still make the pastry for my pies, believing the pastry to be as important as the filling.
I reminisce over the kitchens of early years because it brings me such wonderful memories. I followed two masters of the kitchen and I like to think I get close to their expertise. There are many things I cannot do, but in the kitchen my creativity and confidence are unleashed.
Yesterday I spent hours putting up Squash Chow Chow. As with my mother, appearance is important so I hand dice and grate the vegetables. That alone takes 2 hours. When the pickled vegetables are at last sealed in jars, I have a great sense of satisfaction and I know my mother and grandmother would be proud.
I have some things from their kitchens: my grandmother’s flat, round sifter and her buttermilk pitcher. I have my mother’s potato masher, the small crock pitcher she used just for whipping cream for strawberry shortcake, and the crock she used to store bacon drippings. They are my treasures along with the memories that flood my mind and heart.
It’s probably right on to say I enjoy being in my kitchen because of the closeness it brings me to my heritage. I feel Mama over one shoulder and Mother over the other, nodding their heads and smiling with approval. Turning out kitchen goodies is a way of keeping them nearby and remembering the heavenly aromas of their culinary art. I can drift for a moment back through time and join them at the stove and the dinner table. My heart thanks them for their love of cooking and for passing it on to me.