I’m sure it’s been said about a thousand times by cooks and food lovers but if I have to give credit to the one person who introduced me to food, slow food and how to enjoy cooking it, that person would have to be my Nana.
One of my earliest memories is of her rocking me in a chair singing “This Old Man” and “How Much Is That Dog”. It’s not so much the songs but the smell that triggers the moment. My Nana still, and has always worn a pleasant aroma of cookie dough and Clorox.
To this day, even well into her eighties, she is either baking or cleaning something up. So for the years when my brother and I would spend weeks at a time through various school vacations, I was naturally drawn to her. I would follow her around as she did her countless daily chores hoping that she would let me help. Most of the time she would tell me how I wouldn’t like it and that it would be more fun to play outside. Really she probably wanted remove the half sized me, to just get the job done. However, telling me I wouldn’t like it is likely what got me to stick around, that and I know that she would eventually move into the kitchen.
Baking is where I was invited to help, promoted by a chair to sous chef. Swearing by cleanliness, my dirty kid hands had to be washed and my hair pulled back – usually with a purple hairnet once intended for nighttime curlers, I’m sure. Lastly, as I stood atop my furniture at the other side of the kitchen, I was adorned with The Apron.
The Apron didn’t stand out, although I always thought it was pretty. It was very colourful and had flowers – it was the seventies after all.
With my sleeves rolled and my uniform in place, I was ready to create and learn. Together, she introduced me to the fundamentals of cooking, let me flip (& drop) my first pancake, taught me the word impetuous and how to bake bread – slowly. She let me scrape my knuckles on a grater, use a real sifter and whip cream with an egg beater all before I could ride a bike. She helped form my greatest likes and my chosen careers, it’s just that these days, she can’t remember doing it.
How magical it was when one day my young daughter received a small package in the mail. Too young to read her full name, or ride her bicycle to the post office, she opened it with almost as much glee and anticipation as I had.
My Nana had found something she wasn’t using. My delighted daughter tugged out a little faded, but still colourful apron for her to help me cook. In the note Nana said she thought it might be a perfect fit.
She couldn’t have been more right.