Part of Mom’s kitchen canister set was a vessel appropriately labeled “Grease.” To the surprise and perhaps dismay of many, I survived a childhood wherein my innards were coated by the maligned substance derived from fried animal parts.
In my mind’s eye, I can picture the aluminum container in the middle of the stove. Just below the lid was a strainer that separated the meat fragments from the substance that would lubricate an iron skillet before subsequent meals.
I remember our kitchen, which was the center of family life long before television dictated our daily routines.
An online picture this week included a caption asking if anyone remembered their grandma’s kitchen. At our house, two generations of mothers reigned over the kitchen, as Grandmother lived with our family until her death at age 96.
From sunrise to bedtime, Grandmother wore a full apron, a holdover from the days when clothes were not plentiful and spills were more of a nuisance. She seemed to have a fresh apron every day, even after she no longer tended the stove during cooking. Mom sometimes wore a similar apron, although she donned a more abbreviated form in later years.
This week, while her mom was away on business, we had the delight of hosting our 11-year-old granddaughter, picking her up from school, helping her with homework, playing a card game and serving up her favorite foods. All in Grandma’s kitchen here outside of Lone Oak.
There is no grease canister (we seldom fry anything). The plates and serving utensils match, the milk does not come directly from our cow (no bovine nearby) and my childhood breakfast of eggs, sausage, biscuits and gravy is seldom on the menu.
But it is Grandma’s kitchen ... one I believe all our grandchildren appreciate for more than the daily entree. Most recently, Grandpa has been the cook, since Grandma can’t use her right arm following tendon surgery. The food is not nearly as tasty, but it is prepared and served in that same kitchen, which gives it a specialness, I hope.
In my grandma’s kitchen, long after the pleasing aromas of lovingly prepared food faded, we could still pick up on the particular smell of fresh eggs, which had been gathered from our henhouse. Maybe there would be a missed silk on the floor, a remnant of the fresh corn from our garden.
At one time, the mouth-watering aroma of smoked meat, fetched from our smoke house lingered for hours. Even in the dead of winter, ice cream was cranked by hand in the kitchen sink, enriched by the cream-rich milk from our cow.
I can smell it yet today. I can place every pot and pan and serving dish that was there, though age has dimmed my memory of many things from childhood.
Since Grandmother lived with us, big holiday family gatherings always centered around our kitchen. With sometimes more than 40 people there, a giant “threshing table” was stretched across the living room and pilled high with food ... nearly all of it home-grown.
I don’t think my dad, or any of the menfolk, was ever involved with the cooking (or cleanup). I’m pretty sure Mom and the other women would have been appalled if any of the males tried to help stir the pots.
I wonder often what memories our grandchildren will have of their grandma’s kitchen. While we can’t recapture everything that made bygone kitchens so special, we pray that the love of family served up there will go on for generations to come.
Tom Clinton retired as executive editor of The Messenger in 2011. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Lone Oak.