It’s January! Wasn’t it November a couple of days ago? Drew and I had a wonderful Christmas that kicked off with my parents in Virginia. My brother Drew came up with his wife Meg and the most precious 10 month old on the block and we tore through gumbo and wrapping paper and didn’t stop laughing the whole time. A few short days later (after putting a double issue to press in record time and zipping out of the office) we hopped on a plane and headed to Louisiana for a week of family, more delicious gumbo, sweet kisses from Caroline and more laughter. We had a super fun Christmas morning (my family will be glad to know that we even got our requisite cinnamon rolls in on Christmas morning!) and the whole day finished around Gail’s table and a turkey dinner.
Drew and I both were showered with gifts and love this year, but one thing that stood out particularly to me and that I’ve been thinking about a lot was a binder of family recipes that my aunt Vicki put together for our family and extended family. Many writers far more eloquent than myself have waxed poetic about not only the virtues of cooking, but the relationships that develop in the kitchen so I will leave that to them, and focus instead on the nature of the family that is created in the kitchen. Unfortunately a lot of the family on my mother’s side has not been blessed with the longevity gene and so most of my elders are vague memories and spirited stories. There are pictures and well worn tales, but for me it is a cabinet full of ghosts, not tangible people. Vicki took the time to pull together recipes from her side of the family and ours and with each one she wrote a little story or memory that suddenly brought so many of these folks back. They made food. It seems so simple, but there was something about both her labor of love as well as the notion that my grandmother, whom my only memories of involve and oxygen tank and a cavernous house around her hospital bed, had a recipe or two that she was proud of. I’m not trying to romanticize my grandmother here, but I couldn’t help but think about that book as we were standing around various kitchens in Louisiana stirring pots and chopping vegetables, and pulling out old standby recipes to celebrate with. When we came home from Louisiana, we had people over to dinner on New Year’s Eve and again on New Year’s day and the food was a mix of past and present, but everything came from family. We made Vicki’s grandmother’s pound cake (to which I added a citrus glaze), gumbo that Drew learned at his family’s side, green beans from my mother, Aileen’s mac and cheese (what a score having that recipe is!) a modified version of Gail’s Pinenut Pilaf, salad presented in a bowl that was made for us as a wedding gift and served with spoons that our friend Glade made, and Ruth’s roasted potatoes. We invoked so many friends and family in the kitchen this year, in multiple states and with such full hearts and I couldn’t help but think about unique thread that we were weaving into the beginning of our own traditions.
It goes without saying that I am a wicked sap and always moved just a little too much by my nostalgia, but this year the memories felt whole and good. While I am certainly so grateful for the gifts given to us, I think that my favorite memory of this holiday season will be of standing or sitting in different kitchens with so many new faces and old friends and filling up on the metaphorical and literal sustenance of love.
And now I’m off to the gym.
Happy New Year to each of you~