In 1948 I was six years old and in that summer my mother taught me to crochet and to embroider. My friend, Mary and I sat on the grass behind the house with an occasional over the shoulder supervision of my mother when she could come out between her own indoor chores. Lawn furniture was not a part of our backyard landscape back then. Beginning embroidery projects often included a tea towel with a stenciled design. I remember the one I worked on was of a child helping with laundry with the words, on Monday we wash clothes, or something to that effect. It seems that back then it was common routine to wash clothes on Monday, to hang them on the line to dry, and to iron them on Tuesdays. I do not remember how the rest of the week was scheduled.
My adult life was nothing at all like the childhood days I experienced growing up in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. I had grown into modern equipment of washing machines and driers and squeezed the task of laundry in between other essential duties left to the working full time single parent of two that I became.
While I still look at fine embroidery with admiration, I’d long since left my decorative work needles and threads unattended, while I crocheted everything from scarves, blankets, and skirts, a pair of hippie pants, to a pumpkin one year.
When I was little and asked if I could help my mother in the kitchen, she’d send me off to the store to buy a can of beans or down to the basement to select potatoes and then to peel them or set the table, so I never did learn while young, her culinary secrets. By the time she expected to share that knowledge with me I was off on a life of my own. I do remember that as my parents drove me to the airport when I moved to Washington, D.C. I asked my mother how to make stuffed cabbage, a long-time favorite meal. I remembered her instructions and followed them religiously for many years.
In Washington, D.C. I lived with my friend Edna and took on the task of learning to cook, using both memory and the Betty Crocker cookbook my mother once gave to me. I added other cook books to my collection and gathered recipes over the years.
Living in Parma with my children, driving them to their activities and working downtown full time left little leisure time and cooking seemed to fall to Sundays, when I would often prepare a casserole and one other main course which would feed us for most of the week and on Fridays I would go and get a pizza or we would end up at a fast food place devouring their cardboard tasting but legally considered edible dinners.
Fast forward to the present and Sundays are no longer a day of much rest for me. I find that most often I stay home on Wednesdays, so that is when I can get some cooking done. Yesterday after scrubbing pots and pans and the soup kettle, which is what I needed to cook my belated St. Patrick’s meal in, is when I set the water boiling and added the small chunk of brisket in brine, corned beef, followed a little later by potatoes, a few carrots and lastly the quartered (as best I can, no longer any of the parts are even, but the taste is all the same, so I don’t fuss, I’m just happy to be able to cut it) and let it simmer until the aroma is filling the whole house and finally I turn off the gas and fill a plate with some of each item and I sit down to feast.