Nothing Else Could Match Grandma's Kitchen
By Gail Hanley
Special to The Pilot
One of the greatest pleasures in life is to enter a home where the minute you open the door, the smell of fresh-made bread and coffee collide with your sense of smell. Such a simple act of nurture grounds you with comfort.
Grandma's kitchen was such a place. Anyone who came was rewarded with that immediate state of pleasure and warmth.
It was a magical place for a child. If you were blessed enough to have a grandmother in a time one can really only reflect on as our society speeds past that memory, consider yourself a lucky person.
Sitting at Grandma's table, everyone was treated as if they were royalty. The table was set with beautiful china, always a bouquet of fresh-cut flowers, and a scented candle. She did not bring her problems to the kitchen. She, of course, had them. But it was Grandma's rule not to discuss unpleasantries during one of her elaborately prepared meals because it would cause indigestion.
Outside her kitchen window was a bird feeder that we would watch after meals as I stood on a stool to dry dishes while she talked about life before running water. She told me about the cold mornings slipping and sliding on the ice to bring water in from the well, so that when she was a child the family would wake up to a meal prepared by her grandmother.
She talked about all the sounds and smells of crisp mornings. How early the birds started singing and why the sunrises were her favorite time of day.
The kitchen was devoid of fancy gadgets or appliances. Instead, it was Grandma's hands that fascinated me. How delicate and fragile they looked, but how strong they actually were. Making the bread, how easily she molded the dough - twisting it as if was the very instrument where she created her strength.
Her meals were mouthwatering. She did not follow or use recipes, yet there were never any meal disasters. All countries were represented in Grandma's kitchen. She made me at least try something from all the different countries. She was French but could cook -mainstay meals from different lands and cultures.
One of my favorites was a recipe she told me was an Italian staple. We'd pick fresh tomatoes from her garden, if they were in season. She always grew herbs. The brightest green basil, aromatic oregano and Italian parsley colored and fragranced her garden. The tomatoes were crushed while the juice was drained.
She added olive oil, the Italian herbs and lemon juice into the bowl with the crushed tomatoes. She crushed a few cloves of garlic, added a couple of drops of honey and squeezed lemon, mixing them in also. The mixture sat overnight without refrigeration. The next day, we would put it on her homemade bread. It was divine.
No ethnic meal went without a geographic discussion - which many times included pictures from National Geographic magazine. Not only did she introduce me to the country's meals, but she also gave me a sense of the wonderment of travel that I carry with me today.
Grandma would have scoffed at the mere idea of putting a takeout bag on the kitchen table. McDonald's would be out of business if everyone had the honor of being a guest in Grandma's kitchen.
I am a good cook today because of Grandma and her kitchen. But so much more, I have been given the lesson of the importance of having a sense of place as the world speeds up. Often it seems crazy making my purpose to preserve the love, creativity, and grace I was once given in Grandma's kitchen.
As we give thanks for all the blessings we have these holiday seasons, no matter where you are or how much you have in possessions - if you still have your grandmother, you are as rich as a queen.
Artist and writer Gail Hanley lives in Aberdeen. Contact her at email@example.com.
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