I've developed such a strong affection for food over the years firstly, because it is sustaining and essential. Loving the things that we need to survive is pragmatic and rewarding all at once. Food nourishes our bodies, it pleases us, and is subjective. I may love one herb, and another person may not. They may avoid this herb like an infectious disease and view it with furious disdain. BUT, we will not war over it as our disagreement is not polarizing. In these turbulent days of division and labeling, this is a powerful attribute.
Secondly, it reminds us of who we are and the memories we've made over time. Some bad, others joyous. Pangs of hunger during difficult times or the abundance charactertistic of holiday gatherings and festivities. I can swear I recall the cake I had on my first birthday. This is highly unlikely and I have been heavily influenced by the pictures I have seen from the event, but the notion is the same. We remember where we were, who we were with, and what we ate.
I live with James in my late grandmother and grandfather's home where my dad grew up. We called them Nonny and Homer. Nonny, the gentle Calabrese grandmother, and Homer for his days as a baseball player. The amenities in the kitchen are not elaborate, but what they lack in modernity they more than compensate for in memories.
The counter top, a vintage swirly pattern, is worn away in the corner closest to the sink as Nonny likely did the majority of her preparation there. As a young woman, she came to this country not having known English or ever attending school. She made a great life for herself and her family, and fed them generously despite being far from wealthy. (My dad, her son, is 6 foot 3, 290 pounds, so I would say he was nurtured adequately.)
There is no dish washer. In the evenings, and sometimes the mornings depending on what is cooking, I stand firmly in front of that sink and wash away. Often it takes an entire hour to finish them all as James is a chef and creates lots of dirty dishes, and I follow in close second as his sous chef. I let the dishes air dry, so if you visit for a meal there may be water streaks on the glassware. As a person that is hard on myself, I like these pockets of vulnerability in my life to affirm that flaws are beautiful, and make us relatable, even more appealing.
I've taken to rising early in the morning to spend time alone in the dimly lit kitchen. The sunlight pours in the windows in front of the sink. I sip on coffee and plan the meals for the day. If I had my way, there would be a warm cake every morning; I settle for three days out of the week. Standing where Nonny would have stood, I affix a small garbage bag to the utensil drawer, like she did, to prevent walking back and forth to the garbage pail. There is always an excess of vegetable peels, egg shells, and packaging so this little practice she left with us is ingenious. The people that leave us, never truly do.
Recently, I made a childhood favorite as a reminder of my upbringing: pop tarts! They were also inspired by my time living in DC, frequenting Ted's Bulletin on Capitol Hill and eating copious amounts of their to-die for pop tarts. I cut the dough into hearts with a large pancake mold, filled them with pumpkin pie filling, and topped them with a maple glaze. The fall flavors have been in full swing in this house.
After distributing to family and friends, one lone pop tart was left for me to enjoy. I had it with a cup of coffee served in one of my prettiest mugs. Nonny was tasting it too I am sure.