Wrinkle and muck free, I find myself anxious (eager not worried) to wipe my dough filled hands for the first time on my pretty new apron. A rights of passage, if you will. With my new uniform on I feel legitimate in my kitchen, a true and “real” cook and baker. Don’t misunderstand me or my skill, for I am not a chef nor a professional baker. Nor are my creations particularly creative or something that would inspire a culinary review. Yet, my kitchen is the one place I turn to (besides a dance floor) when I am feeling introspective or sad.
Sometimes I wonder how things come to be. How did it come to be that the kitchen would prove such a comfort and place of solace? When I close my eyes and image my favorite moments in a kitchen there is one image that comes to mind over and over again. A small girl, maybe 4 years of age, perched upon a metal stool, feet swinging in pure joy in the dead space between her feet and the floor, a smile adorning her face, eyes wide as she watches her grandma, mesmerized by the magic performed by her hands. In awe she watches as her grandma takes flour, water and shortening to create piles and piles of homemade tortillas. Her grandmas face wearing a slight smile, her hands flying in effortless motion turning over the dough, over and over, the sound of the dough pounding the cutting board with each turn, using her weight to push out and spread the dough evenly into perfect round shapes, her skill unmatched by anything this little girl has ever witnessed.
I haven’t the time to describe to you all the amazing meals this little girl had the honor of watching come together in that kitchen. For everyday this dedicated and loving woman created by hand breakfast, lunch and dinner for all those she loved. With 12 children and a growing number of grandchildren, she spent much of her day in the kitchen doing what she loved, feeding all those she loved. Every single grandchild can tell you about that moment, the sweet moment when those two hands would reach over and take one of those freshly made tortillas, still hot, steam rising from its surface as she spread butter round and round as it melted with ease, sprinkling cinnamon and sugar and passing it to you. There are no words for the pure joy that moment would elicit, the way the tortilla sat in your hand, warm and soft, the way it seemed to melt in your mouth, your eyes would close as you sought to savor the moment. Everyone of us can tell you about that moment, that moment when you felt the love from that warm tortilla, the tortilla she made with intention of sharing all that she had. As a woman who grew up in extreme poverty, making simple foods with great love is what she had to offer. It is one of the greatest gifts she passed on to me and all those she loved. And oh how she loved us!
As a little girl, I sat witness day after day, every morning I could get myself up early enough any way, to learn what she knew about food and love. I learned so much in that kitchen, lessons that I carry with me every day and every time I step into my kitchen and put on my apron. I will do my best to honor all she taught me:
- An open door is an open heart: welcoming all into your home with a smile on your face is the ultimate act of love, simple yet profound.
- Sometimes the only thing you have to offer is a warm cooked meal, yet with love in your heart, even this simple gesture has the ability to warm the coldest of hearts.
- The sounds and smells from the kitchen have the ability to elicit healing. Warm homemade chicken noodle soup really has no healing properties, it is the love and concern that went into the creation that has the real healing power.
- Make enough to share. Grandma always cooked as if she was feeding an army, though the number of people who would stop by and be fed sometimes equaled the size of a small army. It is the warmest of feelings to be able to feed those who stop by.
- You can make a delicious meal with the simplest of ingredients. I learned to use my intuition when creating a meal, I learned to use what I have on hand, and that I don’t need a recipe. I learned to cook from the heart.
The kitchen is the one place I know I can turn to to reconnect to all that she taught me. I know she looks down on me now, with that smile, that smile that says she approves.
In honor of Valentines Day I challenge us all to think of love beyond romantic love, encouraging us all to spread a little extra love to those in need, even if it is just a smile. It is in sharing love with others that we find the secret to happiness, as I learned from my grandmother. For real love, in it’s purest form, is giving what you have. Sometimes the best kind of love is in the smallest and simplest of gestures.
Here’s to love dear friends.
Remember this life isn’t a sprint, it’s a marathon. Take it slow and steady, be gentle with yourself and stay hydrated.
Your DelightfullyUrban Blogger~