Sometimes, Life Gets Really Hard
To say that the last several months have been trying for my family, may not truly paint the picture of reality. But life sometimes, isn’t as beautiful as we’d like it to be. Sometimes there are struggles. And worry. And pain (or heartbreak). But at the core, no matter what, there is someone standing by your side to give you the love and strength to see the joy of the next day.
For me, and most who love to cook, the comfort of cooking isn’t only about the food or the memories those meals evoke, but the sense of peace and calming acceptance that can only come from being in the kitchen. Which is where I’ve been spending a lot of my time lately. I just haven’t had the will/ambition/desire to share what I’ve been eating with all of you. Instead, I’ve been getting by (okay, so maybe I’ve been wallowing a little with the question of “Why is all of this happening to our family?”) and trying to figure out where to go and how to get there. And finally, I think I might just see a path.
Like most families, we’ve always come together around the table for a good meal and it’s a tradition that cannot be replicated without a houseful of guests (puppies and children included). I love the chaos, the savory or sweet smells, and even washing the dishes, just to be able to see the smiles on my friends and families faces.
I want to share the love of my grandmothers, mother, and aunt with all of you. In a way, it’s my way of welcoming you into my family; into our house to sit, laugh, and enjoy some of the food I’ve been lucky enough to savor for my entire life.
It Started with a Priceless Gift
Four Christmas’ ago, my Mom and Aunt gave my cousins and I one of the most thoughtful and all around best gifts ever. If you have children, I would recommend doing something similar – one day, they will thank you.
Inside a rather noisy box, was a cookbook binder with the handwritten recipes of my Grandma, Gramma, and Nana along with a collection of cookie cutters for each of us (because my Gramma’s cutout cookie recipe is absolutely the best – I’ll share one day, promise). The sentiment behind that simple book still makes me teary eyed, knowing that each one of these women took the time to write out those little notecards full of goodness so we would have them forever. Recipes for favorites we’ve always enjoyed as a family. That gift meant the world to me then, and today, I love it even more.
Six years ago, my Mom was diagnosed with a rare, terminal cancer that luckily has been kept in check, but every day we count our blessings that she’s strong — and brave enough — to keep living like nothing has ever gone wrong. Two years ago, we lost my Grandma. Her health had declined and time was no longer on her side, but she always made every birthday special with fun balloons and lots of hugs (lipstick kisses on the cheek included). The following year, our family lost my Gramma’s spirit. Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, her personality is all but a flicker of what it once was and while we still have her, I miss the woman who taught me how to make Anise Kuchen (a family bread I’ll be sure to share), standing in the kitchen with flour up to our elbows and very messy aprons. In January, we lost Nana, to a cancer that took her far too quickly. While she wasn’t even a true grandparent to my cousins and I, she was the epitome of the word in every other way possible (fresh baked cookies, hugs, and back rubs abound).
And while I will always have my memories, I am so grateful to have a piece of these women in the kitchen with me. I love that my Mom and Aunt have added their own recipes (in their hand writing) to the collection too. This book is the first thing I’m grabbing in an emergency (since we know my dogs and husband will be on their way out too!) because I will never be able to replace it.
In it’s honor, since we know it’s just a matter of time before I spill water on it, I’m excited to start working on creating a hardbound cookbook for my family full of photos of the recipes, handwritten notes, and photos of the women I love so much.
I write this post not for pity or for empathy, only as a cathartic way for me to admit that this is my present. And in my present state I want to cook all the recipes my Nana, Gramma, and Grandmother have passed on to me. I want to stand in my family kitchen with my Mom (or my own kitchen here in SF) and make meals, not only for them, but for me. Above all, I want to cherish all the spilled flour and spattered spaghetti sauce, I want to hear the laughter and revel in the love cooking brings to my family even though thousands of miles may separate us, we are never more than a meal apart.