I believe the gourmet cooks of today with their exact measurements and formula recipes would be lost in our grandmother’s kitchens, and would find It hard to match the way cooks of the pre-’60s era used an old pie safe, and wood stove to produce some great dishes in those BPM (before packaged meals) days.
I can still taste the pies, cookies, dumplings, baked breads, and other tasty foods my grandmother cooked, in a kitchen, that would be a museum exhibit today. I loved watching her cook, with the pinch of this, dash of that style, that looked like guess work, but always wound up tasting a perfect sameness.
The strange thing is that although she taught my mother who also cooks in that same dash and pinch style, and supposed same ingredients, somehow the food never tasted quite the same. There was a difference that set each ones food apart and made it uniquely their own. I always suspected they each kept a secret ingredient hidden away for just that purpose, and can remember hearing them ask each other “What’s different in this?” To which the answer was always “Oh, It’s just the same old recipe.”
They always respected each other’s efforts too, and it would have been out of character for one of them to claim to be the better cook, but I have heard my mother give my late grandmother that honor many times through the years.
I have many tasty memories of my grandmother’s kitchen, and my mothers, so it would be impossible for me to choose who was best, and I wouldn’t even try.
I miss my grandmother, and mother not just for their cooking , but also because they also had a wit, and wisdom that made it a real joy to be around them. Among my most cherished memories are of of grandma standing in front of that old pie safe with flour on her nose, and the tip of her tongue visible at the corner of her mouth, as she stirred up something I knew would taste just wonderful.
I feel sorry for anyone who has never known anything but the pre-measured, pre-cooked foods that come to them direct from freezer to microwave, and wish I could share the warmth and love with every child, that I felt in my mothers and grandmothers kitchens, as we licked the mixing bowl together, and waited for something wonderful to come out of their ovens.
Note: My wife who is a mother and grandmother herself, informs me that love can be just as warm in front of microwave, gas, or electric oven, since the main ingredient is the mother’s, or grandmother’s love. I agree.
Jack Miller is a longtime Sedalia resident whose column runs in the Weekend edition of the Democrat.