It’s some point in the mid-90s, and I’m in elementary school. There is a two-tier black footstool in the kitchen, which I use to stand at the counter next to my mother while she cooks. Tonight, we’re having breakfast for dinner. I drag the stool over to the counter to “help.” I am still young enough (Full Disclosure: I will be this emotionally young until about age 20) not to process that Mommy is exhausted from making breakfast, throwing me out the door and into the car to get to school on time, and eight hours in an office. We always cook in chaos: bags of miscellaneous ingredients sag on the counter, magazines and junk mail are stacked across the dining room table, Tupperware and spice containers burst out of the refrigerator and pantry doors.
I suppose the prosaic way of phrasing it is that we’ve accumulated a lot of crap.
My favorite part of pulling up the stool next to Mommy at the counter is making waffles. I like being reminded to be careful when pouring the melted butter slowly into the batter. I like that the only thing Dad has to do to assist is whip egg whites into fluffy peaks, which he can do while watching TV.
Dad? Dad makes eggs. It doesn’t happen very often, but I think that’s because he’s not retired yet.
Hindsight being 20/20, I hope I didn’t insult my mother by having a clear preference for Dad’s scrambled eggs over hers. I have a feeling it was their allure. I was never allowed to help Dad make his eggs, so I had to surrender to the mystery. I didn’t know what herbs he used. I didn’t know how long they took to make. If you were to ask my father for the recipe, he’d chuckle and say he doesn’t really know what he puts in them. He does, but anything less specific than the way he makes hamburgers or meatloaf is something he claims not to know much about.
Remember, my father isn’t particular about what he eats. Just give him exactly what he wants.
The thing about food memories is that they have nothing to do with what is consumed in the moment we are eating, and everything to do with what is in our heads. After a certain length of time passes – one day, one month, one year – our inner recollections carry more weight than what actually happened.
Last week, I came across an article written by Aria Beth Sloss in 2013 with the following piece of trivia:
“In researching my novel, I came across Owen Wister’s Lady Baltimore, a 1906 novel that features a cake by the same name. Though the cake’s origins remain in dispute, one version of its legend has Wister responsible for inventing it. He made the ake sound so delicious that readers demanded the recipe. Fiction became fact. A story birthed a cake. What we believe is just one side of the truth.”
It’s always a good time to create new traditions. It’s why I created a section of this website titled “New Classics.” When I get to the point far, far, FAR down my road map in which I am a mother, I’m not entirely certain if I will share more food stories or food lessons with my child(ren), but I’m going to have a two-step footstool in my kitchen next to my counter.
After that sentimental interlude, I present you with this thrilling photo of my father leading my scared nugget self on a horse ride through a park.