My Mom hasn't been in my kitchen for over a year. Fifteen months, to be precise. But as I go about my days preparing meals for my family, and especially surrounding Thanksgiving, I think of her often.
Growing up, Mom wasn't that kind of teacher-Mom who thought I needed sessions in her kitchen where she imparted to me the how-tos of all things culinary; in fact, just the opposite. Mom was (and still is) very practical and efficient in the kitchen. Always one who would rather be working in her yard or cleaning her house, cooking nightly meals was an important and necessary duty, but not one she enjoyed as much as her other 'chores'. Don't misunderstand, Mom is a very good cook. She just isn't the type of person who wants to spend a moment more time in her kitchen than is absolutely necessary. And so I had to glean what I could strictly from observing. If I didn't pay attention of my own accord, I likely wouldn't have taken much away from her.
When I remember my days at home (and they were many, as I stayed under Mom and Dad's roof for.... a long time) I don't remember taking mental notes on how to do things. But now, with a family of my own, I realize just how much gleaning was going on on my part. For the kitchen is perhaps where I think of Mom most. Thanksgiving, pre-, actual and post-, are all times I take what I learned and put it into practice. When I need to thaw a huge turkey that I forgot to allow enough in-the-refrigerator-thawing-days, which is the only safe way to thaw said bird, according to the all-knowing USDA, I hearken back to year upon year watching Mom thaw 25-pounders on the kitchen counter. We all lived to tell about it, and so I thawed mine this way. Thanks, Mom.
When the turkey comes out of the oven, the first thing I instruct my husband to do is get the bird on a platter so I can have the roasting pan and it's yummy drippings to make gravy. Pan over two burners, both on high, add the water in which the giblets boiled all morning, bring to a boil, mix flour and water in a cereal boil to a thick-ish liquid, slowly pour it in boiling drippings while quickly stirring with a whisk, and voila! Perfect gravy every time. Thanks, Mom.
Today, after boiling all the meat off the carcass (yeah, just like Mom did), I made homemade turkey and noodles. Yes, real egg noodles, made from eggs, salt and flour. Since I make these only once a year or so, I always guess on the number of eggs to begin with, but the rest of the process is just like Mom does it, down to unrolling the cut jelly-rolled-noodles with a table-knife. It so reminds me of Mom, I even remember the sound of her cutting the noodles and the knife she did it with. Tonight my family will enjoy bowls of these noodles and I know I'll start talking of how we grew up on them. Thanks, Mom.
There are countless other things that daily remind me of Mom, but somehow that she taught me so well how to cook for my own family, simply by doing it each and everyday of her life for her family, gives me a special pride in providing for mine.
And in just two weeks she (with Dad) will be welcomed into our home, and my kitchen, once again. I know she'll be making her 5-loaf batch of bread at least once, to the delight of us all, as well as helping me with the Christmas day feast, and lots of other tasty treats in between. I love reminders of her, but there's nothing like the real thing!
Once again... thanks, Mom, I can't wait for you to get here!