Learning From Her

Friday, July 22, 2016

December 21, 2014

I was scrolling through FB this morning and Alicia shared this post called "On Baking Bread and Slow Days". The title alone was enough to get me to click over to it. As I read the paragraph about the author's mom's cooking lessons, I was transported back to the lessons I received from my own Mom when I was growing up.

And all of a sudden, I realized what a gift they were. My sister is 18 and is always getting onto me about being the reason that she can't cook (she totally can, but she doesn't have her kitchen legs under her yet as far as getting a whole meal onto the table at the same time goes...she can do that too, but her point is that she doesn't have the experience that I had when I was her age). I go back and forth between feeling totally bad about it and realizing that it's more circumstance than anyone's fault.

From the time I was little, I was always right by my whatever adult was in charge of me. I asked questions, I imitated, and I wanted in on whatever "we" were doing. I still remember standing over the stove at my grandparents' house helping my Mom make tomato soup. She whispered in my ear something about it being a good thing grandma couldn't see us (my grandma tended to be a bit nervous, especially when it came to small children and things that could hurt them). In that moment I realized that I was doing something special. I've never forgotten the feeling of grown-upness that set into my shoulders.

The years went by and I started scrambling my own eggs for breakfast and browning the ground beef on taco nights. Eventually, I settled into being the resident baker. When I was in jr. high, I didn't play a spring sport or have to attend confirmation like my friends did, so I found myself in the kitchen. I sat at the bar across from my Mom chatting and watching her work. I never offered to help and she never pulled me into what she was doing.

I started learning what went into certain dishes and being totally grossed out more often than not. She put up with my many monologues that went something like this, "Gobs and gobs of mayonnaise in Chicken Divan?" That was worth complaining about. "That much vinegar in the cabbage salad that I love? I'm not sure I'll ever eat that again." "Wait, you're putting mustard in that? I'm gagging now." She would tell me to hush and that that's the way she always made it and that I would eat whatever it was and love it just like I had every time before.

Eventually, I made my way around the counter and started cleaning up after her and doing prep jobs. I'm not sure which one of us asked, but I can still see us in that harvest gold kitchen working magic and having the time of our lives. I didn't know it then, but I was turning into a cook and one of my greatest joys was being passed on to me. I learned her tips and tricks and before I knew it, I was ready to do it on my own. By the time she let me loose we had been co-cooking for several years. I had been helping plan and shop and cook and one day I was ready to have her be my assistant. Another year or so went by and I found myself being the resident dinner maker. Eventually she didn't even join me in the kitchen any more.

Learning to cook took time. It was time that I had and time that my Mom gave. Those days were slow. They weren't perfect, but looking back on them makes me so happy that tears follow. Learning to cook wasn't the reason I sat down in the chair at the bar or why I went around the counter to help. Learning to cook, like just about everything else I know how to do, happened when my Mom and I lived life the way we'd been living it. Together.

I can't cook anything without thinking about where I had it or who taught me to make it. My Mom comes to mind quite often when I'm in the kitchen and I wouldn't have it any other way.


  1. These are really great, sweet memories. I learned to cook from my mother and grandmother, and the things I picked up from them are irreplaceable.

  2. YESS! I can completely relate. My grandmother taught me how to cook the basics the summer before I got married, and I have such sweet memories of it! Also, that mustard comment HAHAH--I'm totally with you!!!

  3. I love this! I had zero interest in cooking growing up, and that makes me sad to think about. Once I moved into my first apartment in college, I decided I had better learn. I love cooking now and just made my mom a big birthday dinner. It made me so happy. I'm hoping my daughter will grow up wanting to learn how to cook.

  4. Mehmaw3:37 PM

    Ack, your mom sounds like an ogre! 'She doesn't even join me in the kitchen any more.' That made me sad. :-( ....and I am so incredibly happy and incredibly disturbed that you diverge from the recipes. It says 1 tsp. of this or 1 tbsp. of that for a reason. Of course, even when you do those totally irresponsible changes, you manage to produce something that tastes incredible!


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