Sunday, November 14, 2010

Grandma's Hands

As anyone who might still be reading my blog since I haven't posted in months may have noticed, I've been writing a lot about food. Tweeting about it as well.

Being that I never intended this as a food blog, it seems a might strange.

In actuality, I'm just getting back to the roots of who I am. This journey of parenting made me lose myself in a lot of ways for a long, long time. It has changed me. And now I discover that it has carried me back to who I am and who I was.

I joined a CSA back in June. At the time I had just read The Omnivore's Dilemma and watched King Corn and I was thinking even more than usual about the foods we eat and the damage done to our environment by conventional agriculture. I thought I was joining the CSA for political reasons as much as to provide my family with healthy, locally-grown real food. And, to be honest, at $25 a week for a huge box of vegetables, it was a cost-saving initiative as well.

What I've discovered of late, as the bounty of beautiful autumn vegetables has rolled in each week, is that I really did this for myself. Okay. Maybe at the time I didn't know that. But now, this endeavor is solely for my own awakening as a cook.

Before having children, cooking was a passion for me. I loved trying new recipes, trying new foods I'd never cooked or even tasted before, and playing in the kitchen. Having children turned my once relaxing and leisurely cooking sessions into frantic, chaotic, rushed hours of crazy-making where I would burn things, cook things my children would refuse to eat, and left me in despair that I would never be able to cook a decent meal again.

Then, my children got a little older. Right around the time I joined the CSA, my kids began to be able to entertain themselves long enough for me to get a meal on the table or plan a week's worth of meals without being interrupted 27 times. My oldest also began to ask questions about what he was eating and both boys love going with me to pick up our box of veg each week. They can't wait to see what's in there. And of course, they're more excited about the grits and apples, but I know I'm making progress when my baby says of a lovely red and green striped bell pepper, "That's a beauty."

This week as I washed and chopped collard greens to freeze and sliced fresh beets to roast for dinner, I thought of my grandmother. I thought of her again as I poured freshly ground cornmeal from our farm into a bowl to make corn muffins using her recipe. These were the foods she cooked and served when I was child. Her techniques may have been different than my own, but cooking and eating these foods makes me feel close to her. I carry her in my DNA, in my heart, and in the love of cooking she instilled in me as a little girl. I learned to cook at her hand. And while she grew most of her vegetables in her own garden or bought them from farmer friends she knew personally, I still feel happy that I can teach my kids how to enjoy foods that are in season, grown nearby if not by my hand, and in the slightest way pass some of my love for my Mammy on to them.

I don't let myself think of her often. She died when I was 16 and to this day I still miss her.

Who knew a box of vegetables would help me find a way to reconnect with some of my favorite memories of her and let me find a way to celebrate her life without feeling my heart break all over again?

Whoever did, whatever power led me here, thank you for giving me back one of my favorite outlets for creating and showing love and for letting me feel so close to someone I loved so much.