Chestnut Mt. Memories Series: #3
My mother graduated college with a Home Economics degree. We sometimes like to say that she majored in Mama-hood. And let me add that she must have graduated with honors. And distinction. And a solid gold, diamond-encrusted tassel.
Some of the sweetest memories of my childhood are seated at a bar stool, watching Mama cook dinner, wash dishes, or knead dough. In the mornings, I would wake blinky-eyed and shuffle into the kitchen for breakfast. Our pajamas were almost always one of Daddy’s t-shirts.
In the summertime, breakfast was usually homemade muesli with milk. In order to save some money, Mama would mix a huge batch of muesli in a trash bag. Imagine this excitement for a little kid. What?? We’re gonna pour cereal in the TRASH?? And mix it all up?? What crazy fun! Then we would divide it into a few Tupperware cereal containers to last us a couple of weeks.
When it was still dark in the mornings (and cold and unwelcoming… and school was involved… blegh) warm Cream of Wheat was on the menu. Except this was no ordinary Cream of Wheat. This decadence was served up in three hoogley* bowls with a splash of cold cream. Then, the best part, Mama would come to each of our bowls and sprinkle in a teaspoon of white sugar, her patient and gentle voice singing, “Look – it’s snoooowing!” Wheat in a bowl never tasted so good.
By far, though, the biggest treat that Mama had in her vast culinary repertoire was homemade bread. She kneaded the dough in a hand crank machine and made it look easy. It was not; especially when you have toothpick arms.
Often it was bedtime before the dough became bread. This was so disappointing, especially when the smell of warm heaven reached our bedroom. Every once in a while, though, Mama would peek into the darkness of our room and whisper, “Bread’s ready.” We’d scamper out of our beds, climb up on the stools, and find a slice of bread, still warm from the oven and slathered with butter and strawberry jam.
Having a ceramics business was not always lucrative, but we were never hungry. Mama cooked amazing, delicious meals and even taught us how to enjoy and behave during a seven-course dinner. She not only fed us, she nurtured us. And of course, that is truly why we never went hungry.
*hoogley bowl: a wide, shallow ceramic bowl, perfect for Cream of Wheat, too-hot soup, pasta or anything else you wish to eat. Daddy made a bunch of these. The name is just from our Craft imagination … I’ll have to do another whole post on our weird language.