And it’s me. Which, historically, does not always work out well. I am hopefully now beyond the days when I felt the need to alert the fire department if I decided to cook, but I can’t say for certain.
What is the saying? The kitchen is the heart of the home? I suppose this is true, because a lot of love emerges from cooking and most of the best parties somehow wind up in the kitchen. Growing up, my mother did most of the cooking and my father did more of the baking. He was known for his fruitcakes and pies, with my mother making the pie crust, a skill I have yet to acquire, even using her recipe. She told me she needed to show me how to do it, but she died before we got a chance to try it together. My mother was best described as an obligatory cook. It never seemed to be something she enjoyed, just something that she had to do. That said, our kitchen, with it’s green tile floor and red cracked ice table, chairs, and formica countertop, and knotty pine cabinets, was warm and sweet. We had breakfast there every weekday, though my mother never ate with us. I think she was up earlier than the rest of us and must have eaten then. It’s a shame I never thought to ask her about that.
While I was very proud of being able to make my father cinnamon toast and pimento-stuffed celery at about age eight, I never was much help in the kitchen. My brother never lets me forget a time when I was about 14 and had no idea how to boil water. But I progressed from there to being able to make bacon and eggs. And that was it.
With an irony that is not lost on me, my first job at 17 was as a cook in a restaurant. My parents didn’t want me to get a job. They thought it would negatively impact my education. But I’m really quite mulish, so I looked for a job, and happened into a downtown restaurant, asking if they had any openings. The owner looked me over, had me fill out an application, and hired me on the spot. Later, I discovered it was because she thought I would look good working in the front window, and she was desperate. So I learned on the job as a lunch and dinner line cook, and I managed pretty well. I burned myself a lot, cut my thumb open on the meat slicer on my 18th birthday, threw fruit salad at the head waiter, and cried while picking a case of chickens at midnight on a school night. But that job changed my perception of who I was and how the world saw me. And I still remember how to make a good coleslaw, chicken salad, grilled cheese sandwich, and Rueben.
Since this is only Part 1 of Someone’s in the Kitchen, I’ll be back with more kitchen chronicles. But today, since it is cold, and my husband M and I aren’t in the same house yet, and my daughter K has gone back to her own house in New Mexico, I felt the need to make my house warm and sweet as best I know how. Today’s little kitchen has produced boiled broccoli, chicken salad, veggie stir fry, brown sugar chicken, and, just out of the oven, wonderfully fragrant pumpkin bread.
If I could send you the scent of pumpkin bread warm from the oven, please know that I would.