Sunday, January 17, 2010
Growing up in a large family with three younger brothers was joyful chaos. Though our home life was a far cry from the mannerly fashion of the Cleaver residence from the classic T.V. series Leave It to Beaver and more like the Connor family from Roseanne, my mother was the embodiment of June Cleaver when it came to cooking the most amazing meals night after night. Each day when I would come home from school she would be standing at the countertop kneading dough for the fresh, hot bread that would accompany a home cooked supper, or stirring homemade speghetti sauce that had been cooking on the stove all day long which was always made from the finest ingredients and prepared from scratch with plenty of love.
I was always eager to join in the process of cooking, and I will be forever grateful to my mother who always allowed me (after a thorough scrubbing of my grubby paws had taken place) to do just that. Though it was not the birth of my passion for cooking, it was certainly then that she began to lay the foundation for teaching me how to cook, a skill that has proven to be invaluable. But even more important than learning to master the perfect lasagna, or knowing just how long the rice ought to simmer before the lid should be lifted, were the fostering of affectionate moments and cherished memories I have come to treasure.
As a young child it was the self-satisfaction I gained as I was able to crack an egg into the bowl with one hand without the slightest shard of shell, or the pleasure I discovered in sampling the finished product, and especially in the overwhelming feelings of gratification and victory I gleaned as I watched loved ones enjoy my completed meal. As I became older, it became more about the experience of sharing in intimate and exclusive conversations with my mother while we carefully and lovingly produced our culinary creations together. I would confide in her, and she would share with me her wisdom about life, relationships and cooking; things which will remain infinitely intertwined for me.
Now as an adult with young children of my own, I allow them every opportunity to cook alongside me whenever they have the desire. There are times when they all want to have their hands in on the action and times when only one of my two children gravitate to the kitchen to participate. With each completed dish comes a memory and forever attached are those precious giggles when the cake batter goes flying from the thrashing beaters, the widening of eyes as the bread rises in the oven, the confidence they display when trusted to handle a “very important duty”, the smiles as they partake of their tasty concoctions. I love to be present while they cook up those same memories I did as a child, as all their senses are tickled with the delights of taking part in the sweet experience of “cookin’ with mama.” The messes are only temporary, but those tender impressions are for keeps.