I was sitting cross-legged on the floor, my plate of scrambled eggs in front of me on the white leather ottoman, watching Captain Kangaroo. My siblings had gone off to the elementary school across the street from 104 Sharon Court, an address my parents had me dutifully memorize in case I ever got lost. Mom and I were home alone as we were every weekday that Fall of 1965. Nothing special happened on that day; it represents a typical day during that time in my life, but it is the first time I remember loving food. I loved my scrambled eggs prepared by Mom. I loved sitting on the floor and eating off the furniture. I loved having Mom and the house to myself. And I must have loved The Captain. Or maybe he was just what was there amidst all the other things that I loved. It was a wonderful time and the food was simple.
Mom got pregnant that winter, my last one home with her, and when my sister was born in September 1966, I became the fourth of five children and went off to Kindergarten no longer the baby of the family. That was 46 years ago. I sit here now, recalling these memories and savoring the moments of my life, like my time with Captain Kangaroo.
These memories seem to me like important moments, these ones that I remember, the ones that jump forward in my brain leaving behind the millions of other moments I have had in my fifty-one years of life. You might assume these moments would include graduations, births, celebrations; all the events that impacted my life greatly. The truth is, I never felt greatly impacted by anything in my life for the first 50 years, or more accurately, I didn’t spend any time thinking about an impact. Life just moved along, one thing to the next and I gratefully went along with it.
The things that I remember, my important moments, they seem random. They are memories that I would think of from time to time and rearrange the narration in my mind as if I were crafting them into a book of short stories in my head. One day, not long ago, I began writing the stories down. I wrote them not because I needed to remember them or because I felt compelled to see my stories come to life on the page. I began to write because my Firstborn Daughter, living and working in the real world and fending for herself after graduating from college, asked me to write a cookbook of my recipes.
Firstborn Daughter loves the eclectic mix of foods I cook, developed over her lifetime with ideas and recipes from people I met in the twenty-or-so moves I made since my days with The Captain. My favorite recipes almost always originate with a story, a history, an attachment to someone or someplace. Recipes capture my heart and palate partly because they are unique and tasty, partly because they work without fail, and partly because of my attachment to the memory of a time or place in my life. Sometimes when I make a dish, I tell my children one of the stories in my head, a story about one of my moments that I remembered from the recipe. So when Firstborn Daughter asked me to do a cookbook, she said, "Don't forget to include the stories.”
So I began compiling recipes in my newly empty nest that was filled with quiet and memories, starting each one with a story. I hadn't gotten very far when I realized that the stories told much more than just the context of the recipes. They were the context of my life. And, for the first time ever, I starting thinking about how moments impacted me, where they led me, and what I believed about myself. I felt compelled to start at the beginning, even before the recipes, and write about my life with food.
“Rarely if ever, moments come that are so defining in our lives. The years are glutted with benign matters which impact us more deeply than we could have ever imagined in our youth.” - Joel T. McGrath
To Read Home Is Where My Story Begins - Part 2 - click here