All Gathered Round

My birthday was last week, and it seems a little unreal that I am as old as I am.  I don't mind, it just takes me by surprise when I say the age outloud, like life is flashing by so that I can't get used to one number before it changes to another.  I have the most trouble comprehending my own age when I think about my childhood, which I do quite often, as my younger children are fond of asking me to tell them stories of my life when I was their age.  But when I reminisce, it doesn't seem possible that those memories are three decades old.  Those snapshots in my brain feel like they were taken just a month or two ago.

And I've discovered something.  When I play the memories like home movies in my mind, I usually find the ones that are the most vivid involve one of three things: celebrations, vacations, and food.

The first two I understand.  Those are the times the camera comes out, so the memories of the Christmases, the birthday parties, and the road trips to Colorado got rehearsed every time I looked at my scrapbook.

But, the third one.  That's interesting to me.  I don't have any pictures of food in my scrapbook, but I can remember every detail about quite a few dishes.

I can remember the way our house would fill with the smell of autumn when my mom baked applesauce cake. 

I can remember it wasn't really spring until we went to pick raspberries and she made the most delicious jam.

I can remember our Texas salsa lasting through the winter after she spent an entire day canning it, driving my brother out of the house with the hot smell of peppers.

And it's not just our own house, either.

I remember Grammie's icebox pie.  I can remember her explaining what an "icebox" was every time she made it.  And the macaroni salad with pimientos that was always in her "icebox," too.

I can remember Meme's dressing at Thanksgiving, hard to forget since she was a little fond of the sage and it turned out green every year.  And her biscuits with sausage cooked right into the top that were always waiting for us when we woke up at her house.

I can remember Grandma's broccolli rice casserole and the way we all fought over the last couple of spoonfulls.  And her pecan pies that were full of pecans shelled by my Papaw from their backyard.

I can remember my Dad's Sunday morning eggs and the way he would hide a slice of Velveeta cheese underneath for us to "find."  And the roast he made every Sunday after church, the roast he still teases me is the reason my husband married me.

So many memories centered around kitchens.  So much love and so much joy, all around a bunch of tables.

And I wonder what foods my own children will be telling their kids about some day.  What will they try to cook for my grandbabies, just because it reminds them of home and Mama and joy and warmth?

There's a lot of days I come home from the office and don't want to spend time hanging out at the stove.  There are plenty of times I'd rather give up on meal planning and the grocery shopping and just eat out.  But, even beyond the havoc that would wreak on our budget, there's another reason I keep at it day after day, week after week.  I believe in the family kitchen, in its ability to keep a group of people who are going so many different directions all day long centered in one place, in its power to make a boy look forward to walking in the front door after football practice, and in the way it can hold the treasures of memory.

That's why I've made a few choices about how I will serve my family in our family kitchen.  

1.  Unless we're traveling, we don't eat out for supper much.  That's our home time.
2.  I plan out meals for a week at a time to try to reduce the "what am I making" stress.
3.  I play music when I'm cooking.  Fun music.  Which leads to dancing.  Which makes me smile.  I cook better when I'm smiling.
4.  I do my best to try a new recipe every week.  Variety is the spice of life.
5.  I have posted the best kitchen quote ever on the wall above my stove.  And I read it often.

"There's no spectacle on earth as appealing as a woman making dinner for someone she loves."  - Thomas Wolfe