When is a recipe not just a list of random ingredients?
I come from a long line of crazy Italian women. Is there any other kind? Some of my happiest memories are of my loud, animated family gathered around a table full of food at holidays and birthdays. The most wonderful feeling in the world is getting off the school bus and walking into a house that smells of spaghetti sauce that had been simmering all day. Is it any wonder why I am a fat girl?
After three long years of watching my mother die in slow motion from breast cancer, we had the especially sad task of dividing up her things. The only thing I wanted was her dining room table. It’s where every celebration since I was born had taken place. Different houses in different states had held that table. Short of having my mother back, it was all I wanted.
Now, ten years after her loss, the table holds happy memories for my children, too. There is something wonderful about hearing their laughter where she laughed and celebrating with the foods I learned to make at her knee. She lives on in every bowl of spaghetti sauce and every special dish.
Recently, one of my daughters asked me to make something; a dish I hadn’t made in a while and my memory of the recipe was rusty. I trodded off to the kitchen to find my recipe box and discovered what can only be described as a gift from heaven. There, among the well-worn index cards, were recipes in my mother’s distinct scrawl. I found a few recipes from my grandmother, too. They were treasures I didn’t even know I had. They were little time capsules that harkened back to a decade when people still cooked with lard and put pies in the window to cool. Clutching these gems, I could see my mother, still young and healthy, taking a moment to jot down a recipe. Maybe it was from a friend or perhaps she clipped it from Good Housekeeping Magazine, but there she was in all of her glory right there in the kitchen with me. I could see my grandmother, still wearing her apron, (Remember when women wore aprons?) adjusting her glasses to make sure the measuring cup was just filled to the line. I could see the women that taught them to cook and the women before them. In that moment, that little list of random ingredients became so much more than “just” a recipe.