Watermelon Rind Pickles, Blackberry Wine and Blessings
Stories, truism's and gentle reminders of what was and what should be again.
One of the many things that I came into as time passed was a huge collection of cook books. Hundreds. From 4 generations of cooks that took it personal. Cooking for your family was something you did as well as you could. It was a matter of self respect and respect for the maker. Using methods and kitchen secrets passed along, food gets better with time. You have to cook it a hundred times before it taste a certain way. Its practice makes perfect, not knowledge makes perfect. With all that practice there were still cherished cook books with favorite recipes on stain filled pages worn to the point of coming loose. Hand written notes and tips in margins on how to make it just a little bit better. These were the recipes of family dinners. So and so's favorite something from the entree to the dessert. The master of the kitchen was always a grand someone both in name and culinary skills and the pre dinner kitchen was always filled with talk about how the younger cooks made it just exactly like she does but it never taste the same.
So much of life takes place around the kitchen. It used to be the table but not so much any more. I don't think it matters where you sit, its the life that occurs in the process of meals. Things get worked out and worked in. Talked through and figured out. Announcements get made and the deepest secrets of the heart get whispered. Tears of broken hearts and tears of boundless joy. All memories that travel along when the generations change hands and heirloom furniture and china and cherished books continue on legacy's journey. The kitchen is a place where you can receive blessings and truly enjoy them without guilt or hesitation, but with joy and anticipation.
After finally convincing my self that the time had come to thin them down I began the task of going through each one to make sure there was nothing important tucked in between some pages. When I opened this particular cook book called Carolina Cuisine, to this page, it was one of those sunshine just came out from behind the clouds, moments. How much more southern can you get? There on two pages were the staples of a southern kitchen. Some sweet, something to drink and something to help us get through it all.
Watermelon rind pickles were a kitchen cupboard jewel. Took talent to get them right. Recipes were tweaked this way and that according to the druthers of the head cook but the result was always sweet and crunchy and in Lulu's kitchen bright green. The only pickles I ever saw food coloring added to. I think southern women pickled or at least tried to pickle everything that Lord grows out of the ground at some point.
Blackberry wine speaks for itself. And it does. It has been the subject of many a song and some wild tales. It was fitting that blackberries were somehow included on these two pages. The blackberries are in full harvest here. Its like they are trying to prove they weren't afraid of last years devastating drought that claimed so many plants and trees. The branches of the bushes are sagging heavy with fruit offering up a chance for the pasture bunnies to scare the pudding out of you when they come flying out of the brambles. But blackberry cobbler is worth it. Cobbler is another thing souther thats likely to include any ingredient that can be made to taste better with butter and sugar.
Blessings. The kitchen is evidence of God's promise that he will provide. Being Blessed is that moment when you find the first pickings of the garden coming in after the hard work of sowing and growing. One of my favorite memories is watching my grandmother standing at the kitchen sink in her apron eating the first sliced tomato sandwich of the season. Two thick slices of home grown tomato big enough to cover two pieces of light bread smeared thick with mayo and lots of black pepper. Known as a sink sandwich, eaten there to catch the tomato juice and mayo always dripping from the bottom. That and a big tall glass of ice cold milk. Now that is a healthy lunch.
Being Blessed is that moment when the family is gathered around a table that lay filled with the gardens bounty and the efforts of an all night cooking session. Saying Grace is a badge of honor at these gatherings. Spoken by a much respected elder or lovingly handed to a younger family member getting a chance chance to ask the Blessings on a meal. Many of the Blessings on the page were standards that you think were just born into memory and had always existed. Somehow seeing them all together there in beautiful paper and ink transformed into the sound of voices long gone saying Grace over a family that somehow managed to survive in a world where nothing was instant or easy. Voices that laughed and loved and were wise and wonderful, teaching us that we owed respect to the one that provided. It warmed my heart to find a large major cook book include in its pages the words for giving thanks if you couldn't wing it on your own. I have seen looks of dead panic on the face of someone called on unexpected. Like they were instantly naked and it was 40 degrees. Short and sweet was what everyone hoped for. You could starve to death if somebody got wound up.
Being Blessed is that moment when you can sit back and look at what you have done with a sense of accomplishment that makes you feel good inside. Sounds simple but those times don't come around near as often as we would like. Not just to get something finished but to get to the end and love what you did and enjoyed your self through the whole process.
The sight of those two pages opened by chance made my day. I don't think I have ever taken pictures of pages in a book just for the sake of what was written on them. Blessings really do come in all sorts of ways.
The Time Keeper