I was rummaging around in my closet looking for a way to make more room; space was not, as far as I could tell, available, and I needed to put some things away. As I looked through varies totes, boxes and such, I came across some recipe pages that I had taken out of magazines I was getting rid of sometime ago. The find brought any progress of looking for space to a halt.
Sitting on my bed, after moving various things back or over, I proceeded to go through the recipe pile. As I read some of the wisdom written in those cookbooks, in the form of tidbits of advice or menus, I realized that no cook ever cooks alone, even at their most solitary. A cook is surrounded by generations of cooks, in the recipes handed down by mothers, grandmothers and chefs who shared their knowledge.
My mom and grandma made all types of meals, but the memories of homemade macaroni and cheese, biscuits, stews and tortillas are some of my favorites — though none compared to my mom's lemon meringue pie, which was to die for. I never could get the meringue to come out just right. My instruction in cooking was using a dash of this, a pinch of that and to feel the mixture to make sure the consistency was just right when making biscuits or tortilla dough. We didn’t have any cookbooks, and it was years later when I finally got a Betty Crocker cookbook — which I hardly ever used.
When the smells of something cooking comes wafting down the hall in my building, I remember my mom and grandma in their kitchens. Kitchens with such good memories of freshly baked bread with real butter, fried potatoes and onions, just plain, good old ordinary food. Good memories of times gone by and the wonderful cooks I have been taught by and the sharing of the meals with family and sometimes friends. Nowadays, I find myself mixing up “concoctions,” as my son Andrew used to call them, to use up leftovers. The mixtures I come up with are usually quite enjoyable and satisfying with nothing left to waste.
For me, most cookbooks aren’t about what’s for dinner, as I rarely have the ingredients to make them, I don’t like what’s in it or can’t eat or afford the ingredients. Recipes are options that are always open anytime we want to venture forth and try something new. In the ordinary menus of my day-to-day life, I celebrate the fact that I have food to eat and even can choose what I eat; not all are so fortunate. In the cookbooks, I can savor the thought of how good a certain recipe will taste, which is probably why I kept them.
Happy eating to you all, and enjoy the many tastes of summer.
Happy birthday wishes to Dolores Yoast, Steven Burch, Frances Chisholm, and Kaley Goldstein.