My Grandmother’s Cookware

These were the pots that my  mom remembers from her childhood;  filled with delicious soups or stews when she walked home to Clarendon Road on her school lunch break.
Her mom alw20160522_114913ays had something delicious and perfectly prepared for her and her sister every day.
I was helping her sort through belongings stored in the house she was finally ready to put on the market as part of her downsizing. When we unpacked a box in her cedar closet, we found these treasured vessels which seemed overflowing with memories.
We put them aside and kept focused on our work; but later, when we sat down to sip tea and plan our evening, those memories, and the emotions that mom had been burying all day in her determination to get the house ready for sale, came flooding back.
With a voice strained  from choking back tears, she explained that she wanted to cook one more meal in these pots to pay tribute to her mother for all those fond memories of delicious meals.
The proposed menu was not what I would have liked for dinner, but I recognized the need to bring closure to this and that she also needed to do it with a family member. This outdated cookware was the source of her comfort food. So we purchased a nice Cabernet Sauvignon and enjoyed some cheese and crackers while she started the brown rice in her mother’s cast iron, plated pot. Next, she sauteed the chicken tenders in the frying pan  and, lastly, tossed in the snow peas for a balanced meal.
During the course of this process, the rice burned and stuck to the bottom and she realized the handles were hazardously loose. Is it possible that her mother- my grandmother-  had mastered these difficult cooking techniques so that she never burned anything? Or did she compensate in a way that children would never notice?
At any rate,  it was not about the food, it was the company. Ultimately, we shared one last meal which brought a fine conclusion to this honored cookware. We sat at the table with a gorgeous bouquet of lilacs and celebrated all we had accomplished during the day.
Thanks for the wonderful memories!
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themiddlegeneration

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.”

~Cicero (106 BC- 43 BC)
Roman philosopher, statesman, lawyer, political theorist, and Roman constitutionalist.

The new year is here, the holidays have passed, the gifts have been received and, for all we know, the world may be coming to an end. I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about gratitude. According to Cicero, gratitude is the root of all other human values. Why, then, does it come more naturally to some than to others? We teach young children to say “please” and “thank you”; but is that really enough to impress upon them the real meaning of appreciation? From the piles of presents mine opened during Christmas, you would have thought there would be nothing but smiles. As adults, we all know to express appreciation whether we love the gift or not; but…

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Saving Family Heirlooms

 
Tranby House silver tea service, original set ...

Image via Wikipedia

This weekend my family visited my mother-in-law at her new apartment. She had moved in last summer and is still getting settled. Downsizing from a townhouse to a small apartment forced a lot of choices about what to hold on to and what to give away. Much of her furniture,  linens, clothing, tools and various other items had been sold or donated. She kept much more than could comfortably fit into the apartment, so a few months later there was another phase of paring down. We had already taken objects from several rounds of cleaning out: irreplaceable family photos,  a much-used marble chess board and a full set of Limoge china. The latter has been put into safe-keeping for my daughter when she is grown.

When we arrived at the apartment this weekend, we were happy to see how much progress Ma had made in rearranging her furniture and finding a new place for old things. She had her kitchen all set up and had prepared a delicious dinner for us when we arrived. The savory aromas of her turkey ball soup had my son clamoring for a taste. We helped her hang paintings on the walls , which really made her apartment feel like home.

The next day, Ma called me into a closet where she had stored things for which she had no place. By this point of her downsizing they had been whittled down to the most precious family heirlooms with which she couldn’t bear to part. As she pulled out the items, I could see what they meant to her. A silver tea service, an antique planter, a beautiful china cheese plate. I asked her to tell me what she knew about each collection. Some had come from her husband’s side of the family of which she had less information. Most had been passed down through the family for several generations.

How does one decide what to hold onto and what to let go? I could hear the angst in her voice as she pleaded with me to take things home. I wanted to help, so sometimes I created reasons to take things home.

"I don't keep cheese out on the counter, but this will compliment my china set."

I asked my husband whether he knew about a set of silver kiddush cups, which had been bought by his grandfather in Palestine during the 1930s.         He looked them over and agreed we should keep them. Having recently redecorated my living room, I now have a special place where I can display these treasures.

When she unwrapped my late brother-in-law’s silver cup, with the date of his bar mitzvah engraved inside, she became overwhelmed with sorrow. My children both loved him so much that having his special cup will be a silent tribute to him. We can place it on the table in his name at our seder. 

Unfortunately, she could not convince me to take the silver tea set from her parents’ house. Even though it is meaningful to her, at this time I have no place to display it nor would I tend to use it. Maybe someday one of my children would like it, but for now Ma will have to hang on to it. Perhaps as the kids get used to seeing it at her apartment, or experience being served tea with it, this forlorn family heirloom will get a second chance.