Kitchen memories and ‘important stuff’

By Sarah Allen - [email protected]

I can’t count how many of my memories are dusted in flour or sprinkled with spices.

Food is an important part of life – and not just as fuel. Every culture embraces food in some way or another and this time of year – with Thanksgiving only weeks away and Christmas just a few frenzied shopping trips after that – we especially embrace the traditions and companionship that come with food.

A post I saw while scrolling through Facebook probably sums up food and the holidays best. In it, four Thanksgiving favorites are shown: pumpkin pie with whipped cream, turkey on a bed of cranberries, stuffing, and mashed potatoes with gravy. The caption above it: “Now that November is here, we can focus on the important stuff.”

I agree completely – though I can’t help but think the “important stuff” goes far beyond what’s on a plate.

Growing up, I spent a lot of time in the kitchen. If I wasn’t with Mom baking cookies, I was with Dad helping him with dinner.

But one of my favorite memories happened around this time several years ago.

I was in middle school, probably about fifth or sixth grade, and even though the day itself was rather mundane – just a typical gray, fall afternoon – Dad and I decided to do something special.

I don’t know why. Though to be honest, the best moments rarely have any particular reason.

We’d decided to make bread from the walnuts we’d collected a few days before. Looking back, I can’t recall any of the recipe, but what I can tell you is that Dad and I chatted the entire time and that it’s one of my favorite memories with my father.

My earliest memories in the kitchen, though, came from Mom.

She is the best cookie-baker in the world – seriously.

And yes, I know everyone thinks their mother’s cookies are the best, and I might be a bit biased … so I’ll just move on.

Mom made cookies all the time growing up. And with each batch she’d pour me a handful of chocolate chips into a little bowl for snack. It was such a simple thing, but it made me feel a part of it, even long before I could do any actual helping myself.

Nowadays, I sit and talk with Mom about everything, about nothing, as she whips up cookie dough. And afterward we dip into the dough, still sharing a little snack. It’s become a bit of a ritual for us – a way to destress after long days – and it’s something I’ve come to look forward to.

Kitchens are just full of memories, I suppose. And I could spend quite a long time describing fond recollections spent over a stove or behind a bowl: From the time my grandma congratulated me for winning the school’s Geography Bee with fried potatoes, to the countless times my old college roommates and I catch up while we finish preparing meals.

We stock up happy moments like we do our favorite ingredients, storing them away until we need them most. By themselves they seem so little, so insignificant. But, together they make something irreplaceable.

Just as nobody’s cookies will ever beat our mothers’, so will nothing ever beat the memories we make with loved ones.

It’s easy this time of the year to forget that we are, in fact, making memories. It’s easy to get tangled in Christmas lists and party planning, and to start seeing the Thanksgiving feast and the Christmas cookies as just items on a to-do list. It’s easy to forget why we want to make the food at all, why such treats are an important part of the holidays – and the reason has very little to do with taste.

It all has to do with time: Time spent together and time that is going too quickly.

So, as the holiday season approaches, take some time to cook and to bake, to simmer and to settle.

As Julia Child herself once said: “Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.”

Reach Sarah Allen at 937-393-3456, ext. 1680, or on Twitter @SarahAllenHTG.

By Sarah Allen

[email protected]