Thursday, March 21, 2013

Scintilla#13, Day 8

My life has suddenly become active after nearly three months of leisurely quiet: I'm out of my cast and mostly out of the air boot and in physical therapy three times a week, which sure cuts into my reading and writing time. With that, I'm also gradually assuming more household tasks and relieving Tony in the kitchen for at least dinners. I'm determined not to lose the quiet time though -- I want to read and think and meditate some every day, but it's been more of a challenge since I am definitely not moving at a rapid pace.

I'll get there, but at my own speed. Like today's prompts will get done maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Eventually I'll get through the whole series.

Day 8 prompts:
1. Many of our fondest memories are associated with food. Describe a memorable experience that took place while preparing or eating food.

2. Write about a time when a preconceived notion or opinion (about a person, place, thing, etc.) turned out to be wrong. What did it take to change your mind?

The first prompt would seem to be the logical one here. I've written in the past about memories surrounding food: Christmas cookies and our traditional wild rice and bacon, popcorn balls,  -- well, just hit the 'food' label on this blog to see some of them.

I think that sensory memories are the first and strongest we hold all of our lives. A scent of your mother's perfume can instantly take you back to your very earliest days. For me, the smell of coffee and bacon and toast in the morning puts me in my childhood home, coming sleepily downstairs to a bright, warm kitchen and Daddy cooking bacon while he sang little snippets of song. The tang of sharp cheddar on my tongue conjures him up, slicing thick pieces of it for a snack or a fabulous Sunday evening grilled cheese sandwich.

The salty, creamy mixture of clams and linguine puts my mother with me at the table: she loved her linguine and clams, and once after a hospitalization for something I don't now remember, I made a big batch for her and froze the sauce in individual cups so she could have it whenever she wanted it, since it was one of only a few foods that she was at all interested in eating.

I have my mother's and my grandmother's recipe boxes, and while I don't often use the recipes, I do read them, fingering the old, stained 3x5 cards with the faded ink in their distinctive handwriting. Sometimes there are notes about where the recipes came from: "John's Marge," "Leon's Marge," (my dad and his brother both married women named Marjorie.) "Lois." "Paul's beans." "Ginny's pancake."

There is life in those cards despite the fact that their writers are both dead, as are so many of the people referred to. I know their stories. I've tasted the results. Some, like the Lima Bean and Pork Chop casserole, will never be made again, at least by me (hated it then, doesn't remotely appeal now).

When I make Jule Kage, the citron and cardamom-flavored Scandinavian Christmas bread, my grandmother and my mother are there in the kitchen, reminding me to heat the milk and knead it well (although I cheat and use my bread machine most of the time). I haven't made Fattigman, the thin, rolled, deep-fried and powdered-sugar Norwegian cookies that my grandmother always had, in decades -- they are so not healthy! -- but I can see her hands rolling them out and showing me how to cut a slit in one end of the diamond and pull the other through before dropping it in the deep fat even when I read the recipe.

I don't know who will get these recipes when I'm no longer cooking. I have a recipe file too, but more of them are printed rather than handwritten, although some are stained and dark with use. I hope my girls will read them one day and feel my spirit in the kitchen with them too.

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