Wednesday, August 16, 2006

We're doing the Countdown to College for Ro, part of which is cooking her favorite dishes for the last time for a while. Monday night was Beef Stew, the variant that borrows quite a bit from Julia Child. Then there is Mom's Beef Stew and Beef Stew with Roasted Vegetables, the least popular, b/c the potatoes get tough. And for Ro, Beef Stew is potatoes. Plus, she caught on that it's 'Martha's' and she's against her, for some reason.

I was using Mom's heavy stewpot to brown the meat. Over the years, my kitchen has incorporated a lot of items from relative's - some of them have been there so long that I only occasionally remember whose it was and think of them fondly. I keep my cooking utensils in an earthenware pitcher that belonged to Bob's grandmother. I cut out biscuits with my grandmother's cutter, whose handle had lost its paint long before I got it and is now bleached white.

When Mom died and we all got together to go through the stuff in the house so Dad could move - the things we had to barter over were the cookware. The good china and silver and the objets were easy - a lot of that had pretty much been decided years ago, but the Mirro aluminum? We piled it all on the floor and drew numbers, then took turns picking. I chose the stewpot, the nesting cake pans, the meat grinder, which I'm sure I'll use someday, muffin tins, a biscuit pan, the cake saver, the Pyrex loaf pan, a Corningware casserole so old it's got the blue flower design on it, assorted measuring spoons, the new potatoe masher - not the old potato masher from 1955- and the rolling pin. I felt guilty about that, though, and gave it to my youngest brother, who bakes.

Most of this was stuff that you could get at the Dollar Store, but their associations - the years that Mom cooked for all of us and that my sister and I spent helping her in the kitchen - were priceless.

Once, when Sissy was in college, we were at their house and all the seven local grandkids were there for supper. Mom literally had every cooking appliance in the kitchen in use. All the burners on the stove, the ovens, the stove grill and the microwave - cooking whatever any of the kids wanted to eat, making sure everyone got their special thing. It was chaos.

I leaned over to Sis and said "Now, you know I love you and I will love your kids but -you see this? I will not be doing this." "Oh, really," she said, "would that be because you're not INSANE?"

But back to the stewpot - I was thinking about the noumena of relics and why several hundred thousand people would file through to see Elvis's pajamas laid out on his bed in the Hall of State at the State Fair, and wondering what things of our will have the sort of meaning for the kids that Mom's cookware does for me.

Ironically, Bubs wore a pair of shorts with "Crabby" appliqued on the behind today, though he gave me my first social smile. He's been doing this for a while at rare intervals, but this was the first one I'd actually caught. At 8 weeks, he is still Mr. Serious Baby, wearing that baby frown that makes you think he's figuring out alternative energy sources or world peace in that baby brain.

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