You are probably wondering,”Where in the World is Queen Jeanne”? I know I promised to be back after December 1st but here it is the middle of the month and I am nowhere to be found. My sincere apologies. I have been delayed but believe me, you have not been forgotten. Life has its way of imposing demands and at times we must just go for the ride and hope for the best. I returned from my trip to California where I had a wonderful Thanksgiving (hope yours was wonderful as well) only to face more health issues that required my immediate attention. I will spare you the details only to say I am back, feeling well and missing our time together. I will be happy to kiss 2012 good-bye. Is it New Years yet?
This time of year many of us are busy planning and preparing family favorites in anticipation of gatherings, food fests and the annual visit from the chubby guy in the red suit. I admit my usual holidays preparations have taken a back seat this year but I have the most wonderful memories of years past. My childhood was filled with recipes handed down through generations, sometimes tweaked to reflect more modern times but always full of tradition and thoughts of ancestors. My grandmother’s raisin bread, great aunts date sticks, biscotti, pizzelles, lemon pie to name a few. We looked forward to these treats every year and were never disappointed. I tried to pass these things on to my own children and have seen they too hold them dear as they pass them to the next generation. The circle of life and labors of love go on.
I am currently reading “Yes, Chef, A Memoir” by Marcus Samuelson. It is a lovely story of his humble beginnings in Ethiopia and later his adoption by Swedish parents and his journey to become a James Beard Award-winning chef and author. He speaks of the influence of his Swedish grandmother and the making of memories in her kitchen, cooking as a labor of love that sustains us in more ways than nutritionally. One story brought tears to my eyes as I remembered my own grandmother, “Mamaw” and the love she demonstrated through her culinary prowess. Every culture has its form of dumplings. Marcus spoke of his vivid memory of making Swedish dumplings in his grandmother’s kitchen and it brought me back to the making of ravioli with my mother and Mamaw. My sisters and I would gather in the kitchen and we would carefully and lovingly make the filling of meat, cheese and spinach. The pasta dough was carefully made and rolled thin ready to be filled. After filling and cutting, they were laid out to dry overnight. Literally every inch of open space in our home was covered with these little pillows. Dim Sum, the Chinese dumpling, is literally translated as “little bits of heart”. Ravioli is truly the “little bits of heart” of my childhood.
There was always a large pot of tomato sauce simmering on the stove to dress them which filled the house with the most amazing aroma. Our mouths watered in anticipation of the next days feast. To this day, I am transported to my families kitchen every time I make a pot of red sauce. It is truly the most comforting smell I can think of. I have written before of teaching my grandson to make sauce, one of the sweetest moments of my life.
I fear the passing of traditions may be losing some ground in our society. For this I mourn greatly. The recipes, the kitchen memories, the smells, the tastes are worth preserving. If your upbringing didn’t lend itself to this, perhaps it is time to start your own traditions and build your vision of kitchen magic. It is never too late.
I promise to back soon with photos and recipes. What are your favorite holiday memories and how have you passed them on? You know I love to hear from you. Thanks for standing by me during these trying times.