February 21, 2013

Memories in the Kitchen

“You want to eat, don’t you?” Those were my mother’s words when my sister’s and I (three of her ten children)went sluggishly to the kitchen to help her prepare dinner.

My sister’s and I, age 12 and under, were in the middle of watching cartoons and had absolutely no interest in helping our mother in the kitchen. Yet, minutes into the chopping, we realized it wasn't all so bad.

Polka music, a common sound when our mother, “mummy” as we called her, cooked filled our little kitchen from the cheap countertop radio. We danced and sang while preparing dinner, making up the words to the songs because we didn't know or understand polish jargon.

We weren't a family that could afford to eat a large dinner every night, so this day dinner was a special feast. Our mother’s vegetable stew would not be made again until funds allowed.

Mummy, who loved to garden, put nearly everything from the garden into her stew: tomatoes, beans, peas, carrots, corn, garlic, onions, and herbs. Like most mothers, throughout life she would lecture to us about eating enough garlic to keep ourselves from getting sick. Today, I add garlic to nearly everything because of her.

When some of my remaining sister’s returned home that day, and our dad, the mixed-match bowls had already been set on the table. Mummy carried the grand pot of stew, topped with parsley dumplings and placed it on a cloth in the center of the table.

If I breathe in now, I can almost smell the steamy flavor of the stew... and the strong garlic. And I remember quite vividly the sudden silence as we began eating, and the only sound then was the forks and spoons held in eager hands dipping down to scoop more food. All in all, it really was a genuine cooking jamboree right in our little kitchen!

I've learned a lot about gardening from my mother. This was some of what my family and I harvested  from last years crops!

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