Yesterday, I had my Easter lunch out with a friend. I had a chicken Cesear salad; Terri had a chicken flatbread pizza. Both were yummy. For dinner, Hubby and I had mussels marinara with salad and a little cake for dessert. We just are not into holidays, him for religious reasons; me for one of those long stories best shared over tea or something at least 30 proof.
We had a lot of strong personalities around the table in my early days. When the cracks began showing in the veneer of civility, it was time to retreat to Grandma’s kitchen and play a game of Twister or hopscotch on the linoleum floor.
The walls were blue and white. One or two houseplants flourished in the southern window over the sink. The scents of coffee, carefully saved cooking grease, and Lux dishwashing detergent floated in the air. Her stove, a 1939 electric GE, sat next to the refrigerator. It was working when she had to go into assisted living in 1989, and there’s no reason to think it’s not today. The white tongue and groove cabinets hid a treasure trove of goodies for good children, homemade cookies and caramel corn and candy.
Today’s designers would have called it the focal point, but we just called it the table. We–some combination of me, a parent or two, and a sibling or two would sit around it with her, drinking coffee or Coke (never Pepsi) or milk and enjoying some of her cookies. I sat quietly, tracing the white border on its grey Formica top with a finger. I had my first cup of coffee at that table, strong and laced with a liberal pour of half-and-half and sugar. I also drank my first beer there with Grandma. My father had called to tell us that my other grandmother had made her passage after a struggle with leukemia. “It’s a strengthening drink,” she said as she opened the dark brown bottle and poured its contents into two glasses.
It was also at that table where I learned how to make her Christmas cookies and copied her recipes for them and for carrot cake, her signature go-to dessert for holidays, birthdays, graduations, and because it was Wednesday. Even though it’s her recipe, mine just don’t taste the same as hers. Granted that I’ve done some tweaking by using butter instead of oil, and had to recalculate the amount of flour since she measured using a 6-ounce coffee cup and I use a standard 8-ounce measuring one. I make good carrot cakes, if I say so myself. But they aren’t Grandma’s.
My kitchen is as unique as hers, but there are traces of her influence. I have a GE gas range, still going strong after fourteen years. I have her recipes in a folder carefully tucked into a drawer and some of her dishes have found homes in the oak cabinets. As she did for the long line of companions, the dozens of kitties and pooches including Rags, Brownie, Prinnie, and others who have faded along with their photos, I cooked for Orion and now for Oakley. The scent of coffee fills the air. The sense of her presence fills my heart.