Who Is With You In the Kitchen?

by Dana Boyle on November 22, 2011

It’s holiday time.  For me, this is always an exciting, fun, sparkly time of year.  It’s a time to overdo everything and do it with panache.  Most of all, it’s a time to make recipes and foods that keep me plugged in to the culture and tradition that I’m born from.

As I made my pies this afternoon, my great-grandma and grandma were there with me.  My mom will be here tomorrow, and then she will actually be here with me – but I know that a lot of what I do and how I do it comes from her, too.  After all, she learned from my grandma and great-grandma, and so did I.

Me at about two and half with my great-grandma Engelmann and my grandma is behind her.

I have heard that for a lot of people the holidays can be a depressing and sad time of grief for the loss of the loved ones who aren’t there to celebrate.  Some people get lost in the absence of their loved ones who have passed on.  Some people can’t celebrate anymore.  I can see that.  It’s only Thanksgiving week and I’m thinking of my great-grandma and how she made every holiday – and of one of my grandmas and how I wish she was here to laugh at me and teach me some more.

I have found, though, that for me, putting on my apron and rolling up my sleeves takes me straight to my great-grandma’s kitchen.  I feel four years old again.  Even though the apron fits now, and it doesn’t have to be tucked in or tied in a knot, and even though I don’t have to put a chair or stool up to the counter so I can work, I do things the way she taught me.  As I crimp the edges of the pie, I remember her teaching me how to hold my hands so that the crimps would look pretty all the way around the pie.

Even though we don’t have grandma’s house to go to for pie anymore, or for her big Christmas Eve parties where she overdid it and fed us all with the traditional recipes her grandmothers taught her, and even though I miss her especially at this time of year, she is always here with me and I can be with her any time I want.

All I have to do is put on my apron and roll up my sleeves.  Maybe that’s why I love to cook so much.

I know that she’d be proud of the way that I’ve carried on the things she taught me and kept the recipes that she handed down so that I can teach my granddaughters someday.  I know that she would smile to know that her holiday traditions continue, even though her physical life is no more.

I hope that those of you out there who are sad, thinking of a lost loved one this holiday season can find a way to reconnect with them and a way to celebrate them.  I hope that you have some tangible way to continue the relationship you had with them or to keep their legacy going so that you can remember them and honor them, and enjoy your holidays knowing it’s what they’d want for you.  Maybe it isn’t the kitchen for you – but you know what it is and how to keep the legacy going.

When I remember my grandma while I’m cooking or baking or folding sheets, I smile.  It doesn’t make me sad at all.  It makes me feel her warm, loving embrace all over again and know that she’s never too far away.  It makes me thankful that she would rather have me in the kitchen with an apron on than outside getting into trouble.  I’m thankful for the legacy she left for me.


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