Little more than a year ago I had a little post here about my grandmother’s table..a table belonging to a grandmother I know only through the stories passed on to me by my cousins who knew her and also through the bits and pieces shared a long time ago by my mother and aunts I must add. Honestly I was an emotional wreck in the first couple of weeks after the table’s arrival, and the more I processed why I was falling apart, the more I was falling apart. That piece of furniture is this tangible validation that I actually do have roots and a branch on the family tree ..it is mine, it is me. I wrote about it because the table represents the past, the present and the future and it does not matter that it is not the most glorious looking piece of furniture ever created nor that it has actually seen better days..what matters is I am its caretaker for the moment.
That table still resides in my eating area off the kitchen. Oddly enough, that table no matter how hard I look to replace it with something that would suit the space it sits in ..for the moment still feels like I have a piece of me in my home. The table is not exactly the focus of this rant..but it somewhat ties in to where I am going..so bear with me and eventually I will get there.
So just a little background noise as we move forward …..My family spent the spring and early summer of 2017 knee deep in renovations to our home. First thing on the agenda …we gutted the kitchen and the dining area..which lead to all brand new windows, new hardwood floors, beautiful cabinets, quartz countertops, all new professional looking appliances, all new lighting, floors sanded, walls painted ..and when it was all done the rest of the house looked ..well it looked like crap..so we painted more walls and got a new couch, purchased a few rugs at Target (let me just say this ..you can get some snazzy rugs at Home Goods And Target that have incomparable style that works with your budget..and if you have naughty dogs like I do ..if something happens on said rug..no need for a heart attack..worst case for $60 you can get another one) and ended up switching all the electrical outlets to new and clean looking white ones, putting in new light fixtures upstairs and finally cleaning up the mudroom. It is overwhelming just typing this out ..but once the ball gets rolling it is tough to stop. So many changes that once and for all erased the previous owners and at long last allowed me to finally say this is MY home. When all was said and done (for the moment) I finally splurged and purchased matching glasses, plates, silverware (my previous set was an eclectic mishmash of 28 years of marriage and kids.. I believe there are forks still lurking under 1 child’s bed ) and be still my beating heart…I got all new cookware..well almost all new. I still can’t decide exactly what color Le Cruset cast Iron pots I want to replace my current ones with (again the current collection while BELOVED ..is mostly a collection of whatever color was on sale at the outlet and suited my needs..the old kitchen was an eclectic mess) and one more…what this rant was intended to be about in the first place.
Before we even began the project I had to pack up the previous space ..and let me tell you 25 years worth of living got crammed into those old cabinets. Mismatched plates, mugs from pretty much every place we ever travelled..countless magnets, a Blue’s Clues Plate here and there..cups from the disbanded USFL ..pieces of my husband’s youth all in there. I sent boxes of kitchen things to Savers, gave my college aged child even more and boxed up the things I was not exactly sure what to do with. I opened up a few of the boxes last week ,5 months or so after the project finished (yes I am that lazy if I do say so myself) and inside the last box I opened was my mother in law’s well seasoned pan that she made her son chile in.
A long time ago in the early days of our marriage we lived in the beautiful dutch colonial home that belonged to my in-laws. My mother in-law J lived long enough to see her youngest son’s oldest daughter come into this world and then she left us. She left behind a house full of treasures, but we were moving away to the safety and the security of the suburbs to raise that little girl in a house half the size of J’s..so many of her treasures were either thrown out , donated or given away sadly. My husband insisted we keep his mother’s chile pan. This ugly, heavy metal pan that is well seasoned, has no handle, is awkward to handle and was bought at a salvage type store was not part of a matching set but he wanted it.Well I think I am pretty obvious regarding how I felt about the pan. As we were packing up and deciding what to keep or get rid of a rare moment of kindness swept me over, I did give in and we kept the pan. I recall thinking I would never use it but to make him happy and shut him up I would go along with this. So you know where this is going..what I thought was going to happen and what actually happened are 2 different versions of the same story.
At my husband’s insistence I learned to make chile ..a food I do not love ..in that pan based on the recipe J passed down to her son/my husband. For a while that pan was simply the chile pan, residing in the back of cabinet and brought out on rare occasions. Then I realized I wanted to learn how to make risotto and so the heavy bottomed, round pan was not only the perfect size but also the perfect diameter. The pan became known as “your grandmother’s pan” to the kids, even though I believe it was and is in my possession longer than hers ..somehow it still feels like I am its caretaker.
I easily could have gotten rid of this pan when we packed up the heart of our home..however this time it was actually me feeling fiercely protective and possessive of the ugly pan..J’s pan. I want to add something here …my children just like me only know their grandmother J through stories passed on to them by their cousins, their dad and their aunts and uncle so I am glad they have something tangible that was hers. Even though it was completely unnecessary I packed the pan with the utmost care when it went into storage and did not seek to replace it with a shiny new All Clad version (not that there is anything like this pan for sale at Williams Sonoma) as I cooked in my new kitchen and began creating favorite dishes (still don’t like chile even though my family loves my version of J’s recipe..I had to tweak it over the years to satisfy the palates of my children) I found myself looking for the pan, missing its presence in the kitchen.
The other day I got through the end of our Thanksgiving leftovers. I was about to send one of our humans back to college and there is no way this mama would send them back without at least 2 days worth of cooked food for the whole house they share with 4 others ..and I made their favorite “leftovers risotto”. That is pretty much what it sounds like it is …whatever this kid will eat is added to risotto (did I mention this kid has celiac disease and is gluten free???) for this particular kid, gravy is a food group so instead of cream and cheese I use gravy. I get the kid’s point because this is actually one of the better uses of leftovers I have come up with ..the other is poutine made with turkey, stuffing and cranberry sauce topped with gravy and cheese ..can you hear the angels singing and my gallbladder screaming simultaneously??? Getting back on track here…I made leftovers risotto in J’s pan while this kiddo got a little extra sleep and the husband did whatever it is he does on Sunday mornings. J and I were together again, making comfort food for her son and grandchildren ..sharing the love, keeping it real, showing that a little tangible piece of the past can bring happiness, comfort and family to the present.