I have spent the last few weeks immersed in the past, peering into the world that belonged to my grandmother.
She was the family matriarch, she was my maternal grandmother and she loved her kitchen. The more people she could cook for, the happier she was. When I re-discovered her cookbooks, I had no idea where they would take me.
My foray into the past has evoked memories of things long forgotten. I did not, until now, give much thought to the fact that the memories, although submerged in the deep recesses of my mind, informed certain aspects of my life. I am not talking about the big stuff – about shaping who I am as a person or how I have lived my life (that’s a different conversation), I’m talking about little things that I “just knew”.
For example, I’ve always added sugar to the water when cooking turnips , put celery in the water when cooking cabbage, rubbed baking potatoes with shortening prior to baking, and so on and so on! If I was asked why I did that – I merely said, “just because” – I didn’t really know, I just did it. But as I read Grandma’s cookbook, there they were, tips filed under “household handies,” and the descriptions even gave the reason why: adding sugar to turnip water improves flavour, adding celery to cabbage water takes away the cabbage smell, potatoes rubbed with lard will not split when baking. That’s when I had my epiphany about memories, when I realized how much they had shaped me without my knowing.
Finding my paternal grandmother’s nursing book did not evoke wonderful memories. No warm fuzzies, no happy epiphanies. In fact the only memory it brought to mind was an event that happened when I was quite young (6 or 7). My father had a boil and grandma came to our house to tend to him – she put a hot milk poultice on the boil which caused 3rd degree burns - which only reminded me that I was glad she wasn’t my nurse!
I hope that when my grandchildren visit my memorabilia the memories that are stirred up for them are as illuminating as mine have been.
And to all the dear grandmas in this world, I pray your legacy is one filled with warm fuzzies.