by Gina Lindow
My gramma Bernice. She taught me everything I know about cooking.
She instilled in me a sense of wonder about food, about preparing food, about enjoying food. There was always enough for everyone. Even if someone showed up unexpectedly, there was food enough for them too.
I remember sitting on the counter while she peeled potatoes and her letting me eat the peelings. I remember her teaching me how to cut the crust and lay the lattice strips for a cherry pie from the tree that sometimes showed its first bloom on my birthday. How to fry up a chicken and lay out the meal, all as folks were sitting down. …Shucking corn and snapping beans, out on the porch of the old house in the heat of the summer. Watching as she canned peaches, or salted down the cucumbers so we’d have pickles. I would pick mounds of blackberries and she would make me a cobbler (with less sugar, cause she knew I liked it tart) and she’d make up the rest into jam.
My own granddaughters now help me in the kitchen, gathering the tools and ingredients. The girls are still little, so I find tasks that suit each one. They love cracking the eggs, grating the cheese, squeezing the lemon, and most especially, “stirring.” They also like to help choose a tomato, or to pick some herbs – whether in the backyard, at the local grower’s markets or along the path.
When I entered an online contest for Stonyfield Organic Oikos yogurt the other day, I got to thinking about my gramma, and how she affected my approach to food. The question was … “From whom did you inherit your gene for cooking or eating?”
When I was a kid, there was no such thing as “organic.” I don’t even remember fresh juice. My mom didn’t share gramma Bernice’s love for preparing food. It was the 70′s: women were working, and processed, packaged foods were all the rage. Time savers in an increasingly hectic world. My mom worked and went to school, as did my dad. Quick meals and “T.V. Dinners” were the norm at our house.
Even so, we never had to buy jam growing up, and we always went to gramma and grampa’s for a big supper on Sunday afternoons. Oh how I looked forward to spending the night with my grandparents, going grocery shopping with them on Saturday, wandering their property, climbing fences to get to the creek, picking berries, helping my grampa in the garden and my gramma in the kitchen.
Holidays were the hardest time after my gramma passed. She was the heart, the soul of the family. But over the years, we have developed new traditions. My daughter has inherited the love of preparing beautiful meals, and of making cakes and desserts from scratch. As a child, her favorite thing was her great-gramma making her pancakes from scratch. In the 80′s we didn’t have a car, so she and I hauled our groceries home in the little red wagon, shopped at the local co-op and made simple meals with ingredients that we could afford. In the 90′s, my partner and I started one of the first organic CSA’s in the Rogue valley where we live in Southern Oregon. I helped on the farm, and worked full time at the local Co-Op.
Now in my 40′s, I cherish having my granddaughters over. When it’s time to cook, the question is always “gramma, can we help?”
I realize now that my own gramma never really “taught” me anything. Rather, I stood beside her as we prepared the food. In those moments, I “learned” everything I ever needed to know.
Gina Lindow is the mother of one and the grandmother of three lovely girls. A lifelong resident of the beautiful Rogue Valley in Southern Oregon, Gina has worked in the natural products industry for more than twenty years as a buyer and manager and most recently as a writer and consultant. She loves the Blues, good food, camping and gardening. She currently lives with her partner Russ and three cats in Talent, Oregon.