Tag Archives: Cooking

July 12 – Ties To The Past

by Sara Etgen-Baker

The author wears her own apron, created in 1965.

My fascination with aprons began when I cooked alongside Mother. “Put on your apron!” she insisted. I tied one of her aprons around my waist and immediately felt a connection, a type of kinship with her and other women, for there was a time, not so long ago when wearing an apron was commonplace and synonymous with femininity and domesticity. My mother and my grandmothers put on their aprons the moment they entered their kitchens and wore them throughout the day while preparing meals and tending to household chores.

Grammy’s Tulip Apron

All three women were also seamstresses often making their own aprons and expressing their personalities and individuality with them. Grandma Stainbrook made colorful, loose-fitting bib-style aprons with deep pockets. Grammy, on the other hand, created dainty, pastel-colored half aprons that complemented her outfits and accentuated her tiny waist. Mother was practical and preferred making a bib-style apron, wearing it to protect the dress underneath. She reserved her fancy half aprons accented with ribbon, lace, and appliques for holidays and entertaining.

Mother used her bib-style apron for almost everything; dusting furniture, drying my tears, picking up hot pans, and wiping the sweat from her brow. Her bottomless apron pockets were always full and housed clothespins, handkerchiefs, bandages, loose change, my jacks, and my brother’s marbles.

At 14, I enrolled in home economics class where I sewed my first garment; a half apron of my own. I bought the apron pattern for 65 cents but didn’t have enough money to purchase fabric. So, I used the remnants of mother’s kitchen curtain material; a white fabric covered in delicate yellow roses. During that first semester, I learned sewing basics; cutting out a pattern; pinning it to the fabric; cutting the fabric, and basting the garment. I learned to thread the sewing machine, maneuver the foot pedal, and guide the material under the advancing presser foot. By semester’s end, I’d sewn my apron to the waistband; attached small, rick-rack covered pockets to it; and hemmed it.

Mother’s Holiday Apron

There was something satisfying about taking a piece of fabric and turning it into a beautiful apron. I felt special, for sewing my own apron was a sort of rite of passage into womanhood; and proudly wore my apron every chance I had. In 1965 aprons were a part of being a woman and a homemaker; however, when the women’s movement took hold, aprons seemingly disappeared from favor and the feminine landscape.

But aprons remain important, for they are historical garments reflecting how women functioned in society; how culture viewed them; and how they saw themselves. I recall the apron-wearing women in my life; the stories behind their aprons gave life and meaning to the fabric itself. Their aprons are statements of what they represented to their families and serve as reminders of recipes, values, events, and traditions from gentler, less complicated times. I remain fascinated with aprons, for each one has a unique story to tell with its own ties to the past.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

Advertisements

March 14 – Cooking for Passover

by Ariela Zucker

CookbookIt is my mother’s cookbook that I kept after she passed away many years ago, so most of the recipes are hers. Every year I open it a few days before Passover and minutes later I am treading knee-deep in thoughts and images and even the smells of my childhood. I know from prior years that these entangled sensations, a neurological condition called synesthesia, is temporary and will pass after the holiday but for a brief period I let myself back into the land of memories.

The book’s hardcover is dull brown that is peeling in all four corners. When I open it, a stream of papers of all sizes and colors fall out and spread unevenly on the floor. Another thing I tend to forget is my habit to write recipes on random pieces of paper and tuck them inside the book, for a keepsake. The pages themselves stained from the years and the many times they were touched with oily or flower covered hands.

As I flip through the book, gently, so not to tear the pages that tend to stick to each other, I make it to the part marked Passover. I look at my mother’s angular handwriting and remember how the Hebrew letters, she adopted late in her life, never gained an easy flaw. I remember how she complained about it yet insisted on writing the recipes in Hebrew so I will be able to read them. In between, my handwriting, round and flawless, unlike her I drew a lot of satisfaction from the act of writing.

Passover flowerless cake, a family recipe my mother learned from her mother. Matzo dipped in chocolate, my favorite. Chicken soup with matzo balls, gefilte fish, brisket, compote, the list seems endless and with each recipe an image of the Seder table and the voices of people who are no longer alive mix with the loved flavors.

I look at the recipes and sigh. Like my daughters when they ask for a favorite recipe, I remember how I tried to follow the detailed instructions of the dishes just to fall short, time and time again. All my efforts did not produce the exact texture, or smell, or taste. I know that it will not happen this time around either, but that I will give it my best try.

Ariela Zucker was born in Israel. She and her husband left sixteen years ago and now reside Ellsworth Maine where they run a Mom and Pop motel. She blogs at https://paperdragonme.wordpress.com/

November 22 – On Plato and Roasted Chicken

by Tina Bausinger

My son Nathan, who is 13, is momentarily experiencing bliss–all from a chicken.

“Mom…this is soooo good,” he says with his mouth full.

I giggle. It’s the week of Thanksgiving, and I’m home from class, so I thought I should cook something. It’s kind of my thing. So many times I am not here to do the “mom” things for him (I work 30 hours a week and am a graduate English student, a writing tutor and a writer) so when I’m able, I try to make something he likes.

I sometimes wish I had something else to share with this man-child who has grown six inches in as many months, but I tried playing “Call of Duty” and (it’s just sad) ended up blowing myself up. So, I go with my strengths: cooking. That’s how I get him to turn off the video games and chat with me for a while–or as long as the food lasts.

It sometimes bothers me that I have such a connection with cooking. It’s so cliché, right? I guess 50 years of feminist rhetoric have done little to change that part of me that equates feeding with love. Did the works of Gloria Anzaldúa and Julia Kristeva (whom I adore) fall on deaf ears?

When I read these women, I learn from them, but I find little of me, my soul, changes. They have done little to alter that part of me, inherited from my grandmother, that takes pride in creating something from nothing. It seems confusing, but it’s not. I am a liberated, educated, American woman who does not need to lean on archaic ideas of womanhood. Except, maybe it’s the misconception of those ideas that distracts us. Maybe the feminists of past and present wrote and spoke not to take away from my freedom to roast the perfect chicken, but rather to keep that freedom to do what keeps us happy.

And writing does make me happy–just like cooking. I don’t have to choose. Good writing is cooking, when you think about it. Taking letters, forming them into words, and stringing those words together in a meaningful way, it’s not for everyone.

Plato wrote, “[Rhetoric] seems to me then . . . to be a pursuit that is not a matter of art, but showing a shrewd, gallant spirit which has a natural bent for clever dealing with mankind, and I sum up its substance in the name flattery…Well now, you have heard what I state rhetoric to be–the counterpart of cookery in the soul, acting here as that does on the body.”

I guess I see the connection: To take an ugly chicken carcass and to baste it in olive oil and garlic and roast it to perfection (that makes my teenage son ecstatic) or writing a short blog, are not so different. Either way, it sure feels good to see my son, who I don’t always understand, get a second plate.

Tina is a wife, a mom of three, a student, a lover of words, and a writer. She also make a mean lasagna. She loves finding the perfect word and placing it in the literary puzzle of her life.