I cooked this afternoon, and it felt good. It was as if I found myself as I peeled and chopped. I am learning this new place in my parent’s home. No longer the child, I am now the caregiver. Lifelong roles have been ripped apart by my father’s death and my mother’s subsequent surgery. I was the wild child; now I am the golden child, stepping up to provide care and guidance and comfort. Today I am finding purpose in creating nourishment, finding patience with the simple repetitive steps involved in cutting apart chicken and chopping carrots. Could this be the secret behind the healing properties of chicken noodle soup? Is the salve to the soul of the cook as much of a succor to the sick as the carrots and onion in the broth? It felt right to simmer all day, despite the heat and the humidity.
I feel like I am part of a long chain of women, all learning the same lesson as the generations fade into time. We find ourselves pouring ourselves into places we didn’t know about, oftentimes while standing in our kitchen.
Did my mother’s mother feel that way as she made us her pork and spaetzle every year? Was she pouring love into her special recipe each time she made it for us, knowing that no one else could prepare her signature taste of German Cincinnati? The smell of sauerkraut taking over the un-airconditioned house and staying with it long into the steamy night was an integral part of summer visits. I loved the salty taste of kraut clinging to pork, even though in my role as the family’s picky eater I adamantly refused to eat the kraut every year. I also stubbornly refused to try her German Potato Salad. When I was in my 30’s and Dad prepared it using her recipe I was blown away by the tantalizing blend of flavors. Now when I break out the recipe for family cookouts, each taste brings me back to Cincinnati summers. Most mornings during our visit I would wake up early to find Grandma already standing at the stove, tissue stuffed up her sleeve, boiling the potatoes or starting the evening’s meal before the heat filled her kitchen, her busyness leaving little room for the chatter of small children. How much love did she pour into these dishes, love that she couldn’t show any other way? I have no memories of snuggles or kisses beyond the perfunctory kiss goodnight. But every meal was homemade and at night sometimes she would comb my hair and braid it just so in the way I loved. It was only when she could no longer do these things that she began to say the words “I love you.”
From June 2013