Matthew (upon entering the kitchen and in shock at hearing his brother's sacrilegious suggestion) orders: Step away from that stove!
Jim and I are blessed with two sons who love to cook and who are exceptionally good at it. Thank heavens, because both of their Grandfathers barely knew how to boil water. Christopher, our innovator, is always for altering recipes, jazzing them up, and experimenting with flavours. Had he not chosen a life in academia, he could easily have become an accomplished professional chef. Matthew, our traditionalist, is equally talented in the kitchen, but posseses a staunchly loyal 'you-don't-mess-with-tradition' attitude. And what you don't mess with, according to Matt, are treasured family recipes handed down from his Gramma.
My Mother was nothing short of amazing in her kitchen. In the months before Jim and I were married, I followed Mom around like an eager little puppy dog, jotting down recipes on little cards, as she dramatically waved her hands using terms that made absolutely no sense to me. A 'nob' of butter! A 'handful' of paprika! A 'jigger' of lemon juice! Whaaaat? I moaned. It has taken me a lifetime of trial and error with those now dog-eared, food-stained little file cards, to come close to matching what my Mother so blithely produced.
From dozens and dozens of spectacular concoctions, a few of the most sacred are Mom's recipes for turkey stuffing, pumpkin pie ( part of her Bajan heritage with a molasses twist ), French salad dressing ( the reason I don't use bottled dressings ), spaghetti sauce ( OMG good ) and, of course, the plethora of Christmas cookies for which she was so well known. To enjoy any of these is to savour years of family meals shared and remembered.
Eating Mom's beef stroganoff is to hear my Father's teasing voice, Great Boris Stromberg, Jean! and Mom's head shaking correction, Oh, Norm! Christmas shortbreads that literally melt in my mouth evoke memories of Mom's annual Herculean stint in the kitchen ( until she was eighty-seven, by the way ) baking up her fifteen different Christmas cookies. Yup, fifteen! Now you understand why I have such a lithe ( cough! cough! ) figure. If it is cheese soufflé, it must be Friday night!
My sister, brother and I were raised in a family that cherished deep and plentiful Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas traditions; traditional foods as prepared by Mom were an intrinsic part of our celebrations. Perhaps that is why, early Christmas morning while all are still asleep and as I stuff the turkey, I so strongly sense my Mother's presence. It is as if she is enjoying her early morning coffee, overseeing my preparations. Not a year has gone by since her passing that in those early morning moments I don't look heavenward, smile and thank her for the treasured food heritage she left us.