My kitchen reminds me of mom

Published 11:59 pm Friday, July 31, 2009

Sometimes when I work in my kitchen, it seems that my mother is right there beside me. During the time that she lived with my husband and me, she spent a lot of time in the kitchen with me, preparing meals, helping me prepare meals, washing dishes and doing the wipe-up jobs.

Even then, I learned things from her. She introduced me to kitchen shears. Now I can’t do without them. She taught me how to cook stewed squash. She always made the holiday dressing and although I never wrote down her recipe, I can almost come up with the same delicious result … well, almost.

When she moved to our house, she brought along her turkey roaster. She often laughed when she got it out to use. Her next-door neighbor borrowed it every year to cook her Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys. “I never could understand why she didn’t just buy herself one,” she said, “but I guess she thought she didn’t need to with mine so handy.”

As she washed a metal colander, she sometimes commented on how battered it was. She thought it was the one she bought when I was a baby. Back then, there was no baby food on the shelf. She said that she used it to prepare soft food for me.

Every time I open a certain cabinet door, I see clippings she attached to the inside of it with tape. A lot of them were “Hints from Heloise.” A separate article related “a secret method on how to clean iron skillets.” Those notes are all yellowed now. Some are even curling. One day I’ll remove them, but not yet. I can’t help but smile when I see them.

She brought along some of her cookbooks, including her old White House Cookbook from the late 1920s. It was a gift from my daddy. It’s in pretty bad shape these days, so I don’t handle it. When I open some of the others though, I get a chuckle. Tucked between this page and that are recipes she jotted on the back of an envelope or a scrap of paper. They are smudged from use. The reason it amuses me is that I have always done the same thing. I never knew we both had that habit until I found those torn envelope backs and scraps with recipes scrawled on them in her cookbooks.

One day she came in smiling from a church yard sale, holding a big bowl. She said it was a bargain and was proud of it. I wondered what in the world she wanted it for — I couldn’t possibly think of a use for it. Well, guess what? I use it often, sometimes for mixing, other times for thawing those little 3-pound turkey breasts I cook now and then. I wonder how I’d manage without it.

Mother has been gone four years, but so often she’s right there in my heart as I work in my kitchen.