Sunday, October 03, 2010

Live and Learn

"People do it differently." She says it without judgement, without her normal exasperated know it all attitude. Then she tells me that one shouldn't cut into the carrot to cut the tops off and shouldn't leave them to dry out either. If I'd left a little of the green top attached and put them in the fridge right away they'd stay crisp until the New Year. She tells me this in a tone that sounds as if she has bad news to tell me and wants to let me down gently. I tell her "oh, well, I'll know for next year" thinking of the bald headed carrots wilting in the fridge, hours of unnecessary work that will most likely end up in the compost bin. Live and learn.

Last night as I lay in bed reviewing my day I thought about the kindness of my mom in our conversation about my freshly stored carrots. I never felt welcome in her kitchen growing up. The rule was I could experiment all I wanted if I got up early Saturday while everyone else slept and if I cleaned up after myself. So I did. Dark winter mornings found me (and everything around me) covered with flour, managing to dirty more dishes than necessary. I don't have memories of my mom teaching me to cook. We were rarely in the kitchen at the same time and never cooked together. Once she slapped me across the face at the kitchen sink.

Still, she was patient from a distance. She made cooking look so easy but without her side by side instruction all I could go on was what I observed from afar. That led to one episode where I tried to make pie crust and gave the recipe a try five times in a row. First I covered the little counter with flour and dough and frustration. Then I went to the dining room table. Eventually my mom came home from town to see flour on every flat surface and I still hadn't managed to duplicate her ease at what seemed like zip, zip, zip and there was a beautiful crust in the pie plate in one piece! Without her guidance how could I know about using ice cold water and handling the pastry as gently as possible? About rolling it out from middle to edge with feather light fingers? I couldn't.

Anyway I lay in bed last night and cherished a simple conversation on a Saturday afternoon reminded that sometimes a kind heart gets buried underneath a lot of pain, but still it remains.