Where I come from food is a very important part of our culture. Sure, just driving through you'll find Italian and French cuisine scattered among a million fastfood restaurants. But it's the people from Maine ya gotta eat with. Some of us have seafood or "New England Style" diners and such. Others of us, like my family, just make it at home. It's a tradition passed down from mother to daughter (and sometimes to son) for who-knows-how-long! It's a skill. An art. A knowledge to be acquired from only the best. That's who I learned it from; the Best: Mum.
Mum is a picture-perfect traditional homemaker. On first sight, she's a short woman with deep-set eyes the same blue-gray color of the stormy Atlantic. Those eyes peer out from a reddish complexion, adorned by a frame of short, fine, auburn hair. The hair is so fine and smooth that Mum has never bothered with pulling it into a bun or a pony-tail 'cause it just slips right out again.
Mum knows so much about the homey stuff. She can make a room more comfortable just by knowing what to say or how the lights should be or when to turn off the fan. I love all that about her. But what I love most is her cooking. She knows everything from why we bake more in the winter to why kids prefer their sandwiches cut diagonally; from how to make the most heavenly blueberry cheesecake, to knowing that "cassia" is really cinnamon incognito.
The food she conjures up is like ambrosia. And while she cooks, the whole atmosphere is transformed from a raucous household bustling with eight crazy kids and their company, to a quiet home of anticipation as we await the call of "Kids! Come and eat!"
I often love to set the table in the evening. Just Mum and me upstairs while the kids watch a movie or play outdoors. It's the eventide that somehow, almost magically, brings the song into her voice as she cooks. I think it's the closest to bliss I can feel without it being a holiday. The air fill with the sweet aroma of Perfection and mingles with eh silvery, jazzy notes flowing out of Mum. She always sings old songs like Dream a Little Dream of Me", and "Vincent", and a collection of Beatle's songs, and hymns too. And then when I sing the snatches of them that I know (by heart now) she stares at me in disbelief and asks, "How do you know that song?!" as if I haven't been listening for the past eighteen years. The smells and songs together are so lulling that I've often fallen asleep right at the counter stool, waiting for dinner to be served.
Mum has always cooked for the family, and that is no small task. With eight kids and Dad to feed, she manages exceptionally well. But the most amazing thing to see (and taste) is Mum's Thanksgiving dinner. In the morning she lays out a big fruit-basket that we can pick at until dinner, but other than that we're banished from food. She works for two days just on pies; with my help we can turn out 12 to 15 pies. Then for two more days (including Thanksgiving) we cook up the best foods this side of, well, anywhere! And we don't just cook for the 10 members of the family either, no, we always have to invite 8 or 10 more! It's spectacular!
Mum's taught me a lot of useful and trivial things alike. Cooking is definitely one of the more useful ones and it really makes me feel blessed to have a mother that knows so much about it.
Originally written August 11, 2004 for Mr. Thornburgh's English prompt: "Think of a skill you've learned and describe the person who taught it to you." 1/2 - 1 page long. (It came to 4 pages)