If Grandma Could See Me Now
By Jen Brehm
At 16, I was wearing high-top sneakers and flannel shirts, playing sports and moaning about the family days at my grandparent’s house where we would freeze corn, can vegetables and eat dinner at the picnic table on the screened porch. I was a tomboy and the kitchen was the last place that I wanted to be. So when my grandmother presented me with “The Society of Farm Women of Pennsylvania Cookbook” for Christmas that year, I smiled politely as I tried to imagine what I would do with it.
Through dozens of relocations, numerous job changes and apartment after apartment that paperback, locally published book went in boxes and out on shelves but never made it to the kitchen counter. I looked at it once or twice but it wasn’t written for a kitchen novice like me. Recipes listed ingredients as “a bit of this” or a “spoonful or two” of that. Instructions said “knead to proper consistency”. I barely knew how to make a grilled cheese without burning it, that book might as well be written in Latin. And then I met my husband.
He’s been a chef for more than 20 years, and he’s traveled the country learning about local cuisine. Coming from Salt Lake City, Utah, he was intrigued by Pennsylvania Dutch cooking. I happily handed him my family heirloom cookbook that looked brand new after 20 plus years. He leafed through it page by page occasionally reading a title out loud, intrigued by the name, and I would smile and often say, “I loved that as a kid, we have to try making it.” Not only has my husband reconnected me with my childhood through that cookbook, he has also reestablished many family traditions for me.
Two years ago we bought a house and began mapping out a garden. Two weeks ago I canned my first batch of green cherry tomatoes on my own without my husband’s help. I survived breaking my first jar. I figured out how to retrieve a jar from a pot of boiling water without scalding myself. I learned the pure joy of hearing a can “pop” after turning off every iPhone, TV and any other distraction that might stifle that precious sound. And I thought back to the days in my grandmother’s kitchen where she worked so hard to impart her knowledge to me, and I just wanted to be somewhere else. If only she could see me now.
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