Christmas 2011 was amazing. It truly was. I got to spend good, quality time with my husband, younger sister and younger brother, my father, my mother and her fiancé and my in-laws. There wasn’t a moment today where I was completely stressed or irritated. I had an absolute blast opening gifts with everyone, eating, cooking, eating some more and just hanging out.
What I’ll take away most from this Christmas was probably the connection I didn’t realize I had with my family through food.
Nick’s Mom, when I asked her about the famous Broccoli Casserole Recipe we were going to have for dinner, brought out her copy of her late mother’s recipe book. It was a church cookbook from 1978. Bound together, the book featured recipes for everything from Meat Croquettes to 24 Hour Salad to Peanut Butter Cake. In the margins, Nick’s grandmother, Doris, had written her own little instructions. Some are ingredient substitutions. Some are different oven or timer settings. Some are completely different recipes. There were recipe cards every few pages with other recipes as well. One of those included “Nutty Cookies – Your Favorite”. They were Nick’s mom’s favorite cookies as a little girl.
There was so much history in this little cookbook. My Mother-in-Law immediately stood up and went into the other room where she retrieved her mother’s actual copies of the cookbooks. They had even more detailed instructions and notes throughout them. She told me she wanted me to have them… to pass them down to me. My eyes filled with tears.
How personal… her mother’s cooking… and she was giving me the road map to it.
It got me thinking about my own cooking road map. Both of my parents are excellent cooks. There are certain smells that bring me instantly back to their respective kitchens. I remember making home-made pasta when I was little… being allowed to stir the pot for meals… being in charge of a full dinner for the family… creating birthday cakes and holiday treats.
This Christmas, we made Christmas Eve Dinner at my Dad’s. He made an amazing citrus and clove glazed ham, mashed potatoes, sweet carrots, corn and a variety of deserts with my sister. For lunch today, we did create-your-own pizzas with my Mom. She made pizza dough from scratch- complete with the tossing in the air portion of the dough process and everyone’s personality showed with their individual artisan pizzas.
My dad can make anything to appease a wide variety of tastes (for those of us that do or don’t like the spice, etc.). My mom is super creative and can come up with variations of recipes on the fly with ease (stuffing the Thanksgiving turkey with potato hash may seem crazy… but trust me… it’s so good!). My cooking has been completely influenced by them.
I can now create a meal that satisfies my husband, who LOVES spicy food and myself, who does NOT enjoy spicy food. I can substitute ingredients mid-meal and add ingredients without having a kitchen melt down.
It’s this that I can’t wait to pass down to our children when we have them. I want to teach them how to make “pesto pasta” and “chicken chips” and all of the other recipes that are staples in my cooking repertoire. I want them to know the Seiler recipes as well as the Eakins ones. I want to raid my mother’s, father’s, in-laws and grandmother’s cooking books and glean anything and everything I can and I want to get my sister to teach me how to bake the way she does so easily. I want my children to be adventureous with food and want to be in the kitchen to make the meal with the family – just like I do.
I’m pretty sure what I am going to take from this Christmas, above all the gifts that I’m still uncertain if I’m even “worthy” of, is that my family has always… and will always… have great kitchen memories.