Friday, January 30, 2009

Triggers, Teachers, Tradition.

A couple weeks ago I went to a modern dance concert that one of my friends choreographed. She did a solo piece that involved bowls of flour. She let the flour run through her fingers. She rubbed into her arms, face, dress. She dumped the flour into new bowls. And it triggered my memory of all those women who taught me to bake.

My strongest memories of my grandma are teaching me to sew, quilt, or china paint. But, when she gave Justin and I a check for our wedding present, she said, "Hide this money so you always feel rich." and I hid it in a Kitchen Aid Mixer, the same one that she had, with the lever that makes the bowl go up and down, and the biggest bowl. Every time I use it I feel rich, it wasn't what she had in mind, but its exactly what she told me to do. Grandma is all about using what you've got to make things easier, but still highest quality. She still pieces her quilts, but she accepts the help of a machine to do the quilting. She used the kitchen aid to do her kneading, she used the refrigerator to do the rising. She is a master of the dessert, red velvet, banana cake (with real banana cake frosting... the really-hard-to-make-candy kind) , and pies. She also loved a good cobbler. I have a really hard time replicating the fruit pies and cobblers, because she used Picked-by-Grandpa fruit, and there was just something about the fruit that Grandpa picked.

I was thinking the other day that I should try to make a banana cake. And then I heard my grandma's voice "Beat the tar out if." (This is in relation to the red velvet frosting, but all I know about the banana frosting is you have to stand over a hot stove and stir it and stir it, and there is a 85% chance that I would screw it up.)

She always has buttermilk, and cream in her fridge. This, I think is the secret to her success. Someday I'm going to have buttermilk and cream in my fridge at all times, lofty goal, I know, but it is something to work toward.

She knows where its okay to take short cuts, and where it isn't. Unfortunately, that is a really hard skill to teach. So, I only take the short cuts I know she takes. She is were I got quickest cinnamon roll recipe available. Maybe I'll makes those instead of the banana cake.

Sister Zizka taught me how to use a wooden spoon, and knead with my hands when I was making bread. She required flour on our noses so that we could prove we made it. She had a great kitchen for making bread, with plenty of room to knead. I remember having rubbery arms at the end of the work out. But, the bread always turned out. And, bread from the bread makers just never has the same consistency or delightful crust. She is the donor of the recipe that I use to make the wheat croissant rolls for every holiday that requires rolls. Don't tell her, but, I used the kitchen aid to do the stirring and kneading, its in my genes.

I keep trying to pass these things on to Reuben, but he's still too young. He's got the leveling off the measuring cup down pretty good, but we still have a long ways to go.

I'm wishing I could go visit grandma. Take Justin and Reuben. Show off Justin's eyebrows, and Reuben's ability to be pleasant. I wish I could take her box of recipe cards and make copies of everything. I'd love to see her closet full of quilts. Listen to her wise advice, and matter-of-fact way of saying things.

The Photo is from July 2007.


Klous Family said...

Wow this is a really sweet post!You are lucky your grandma shares her secrets. I swear my grandma will take her recipe for the worlds best ever potato salad to her grave. She swears she's giving the whole recipe to us but no ones tastes like hers. She's holding out on us! Your grandma is really beautiful and this post makes me want to go see mine too.

Mindy said...

That was beautiful.

charrette said...

I loved reading about your grandma here. She sounds so much like mine. A legacy of homemakers we share.
I posted about mine last week (Mr.s Santa). :)