Luscious Legacy

Luscious Legacy

I have been a part of Sue Ann Gleason’s Luscious Legacy Project since fall 2014. The project has inspired me to write about the legacy of nourishment – of food as a giving and sharing of love – that I come from. The foods I grew up savoring, the foods that are a part of my new legacy, which I’ve added to those I’ve inherited. This is just a beginning, but I am loving getting it all down. Honoring the love of good food made by those I love most in the world – my three grandmothers, my parents, and a few other special people.

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Tiny Blue Kitchen

I remember standing in the doorway of the tiny blue kitchen
Before she noticed I was there,
Watching her from the back as she poured oil and salt into the pot of rice,

Turned down the flame and covered the pot.

I remember the first bite of oily salty rice
Melting in my mouth.
How impossible it was to not reach for more when my bowl was finished.
How easily she would insist I take more.
I remember rice that could stand on its own,
Rice that went with canned carrots and peas (with their own oil and salt),
Rice under lamb,
Rice with meatballs,
Rice mixed with spinach,
Mujadra rice with lentils and onions,
Rice with lemon turmeric chicken,

Yellow.

I don’t remember a meal from the tiny blue kitchen that didn’t include rice.

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I remember the plastic bag of breads and pastries from the boulangerie-patisserie that hung on the doorknob behind the blue kitchen door.

Her stash.

Brioches, little baguettes, the soft kind,
Easy to soften up in the toaster once they were a few days from fresh.
When I would come stay, there were extras.
Pains aux raisins,
Amandines,
Tartes aux pommes.
Sometimes even an éclair au café.

I remember the softness of the raisins I would pick off and eat first.
The glaze on the eclair and the cool creme inside.

I remember how she would become a little girl when she ate pastries.

Delighted.

****

I cannot imagine how she could have cooked like she did
And not have been the woman she was,
A woman who appreciated and savored the tastes of delicious food.
A woman who loved to prepare food for her large family.

A woman who loved wholly
From her tiny blue kitchen.

I remember her like she is still here.
For four decades
I never knew the world or my family without her.

A few months shy of 96 years,
She went in her sleep after the first night of Passover.

I can’t call her anymore
But I almost feel like I could.

I remember her phone number.
I know I always will.

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Dad’s Weekend Job

IMG_5368

On weekend mornings the kitchen was Dad’s domain;
Especially on sleepover weekends
Or the morning after a slumber party.

The crepe maker from France,
The one that required the 220V outlet.
The stack of crepes ready for us when we woke up,
Ready to slather with Nutella or jam.

Challah sliced the night before
So that it would be dry enough for
French toast the next morning
Ready to slather with Nutella or jam.

On Passover mornings the matza would soak in water
Before mixing with egg and frying in butter for
Matza brei
Ready to slather with Nutella or jam.

Oil sizzling hot for sambousek, deep fried.
Cheese melted between two pieces of matza,
Biting into it and the string of cheese would
Stretch from our mouths.

We were queens on those mornings,
He was our chef, treating us
Delighted.

****

Whistle

I remember her whistling
Not true whistling but through-your-teeth whistling

She was at the kitchen sink, facing the window to the front garden
Washing vegetables, washing dishes
Cutting something at the counter by the sink
Mixing something in a bowl for baking

Pound cake
Cheese cake

I remember crunchy fluffy matza balls
With ground almonds mixed in

How do you get matza balls to be both crunchy and fluffy?

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