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Light Bulb!

August 31, 2011
by Erin B

I have heard people say that immigrant families can lose their language in a single generation when people switch to English at home.  I think that house keeping and traditional kitchen skills are the same.  My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack while my mom and her brother were still in school.  They weren’t well off before that.  Grandfather had a bit of drinking problem and wasn’t reliably employed.  Granny took in boarders to help pay the bills, once Grandfather passed, she really had to step that up to get by.

I suspect she didn’t have time to teach my mom house keeping stuff.  I don’t mean that as an insult to my mom.  Her house is clean, she makes (or at least she made while she had kids at home) all her meals from scratch without so much as a spice blend or a pre-made sauce to help make it easier.  She worked as hard as Granny to get by with an alcoholic husband.  But Granny had mad cooking skills.  The kind you use to feed a table full of hungry men.  Her borders got meals and house keeping included.  She even made the beds.  There is no way she had time to play with her kids.

Not like I get to.

T’s mom was the Dean of the College of Nursing at the local university.  She also was part of the local gourmet cooking club and keeps her house immaculate with out any help.  She really is the supper mom women think is impossible to achieve.  I have no idea how she does it/did it.

She also has told me that she didn’t have time to teach T how to cook and she regrets it.  His kitchen skills are so bad that I had to take him to the emergency after the last time he tried to make me supper.  He doesn’t have the background knowledge that recipes take for granted that the person following them knows.  He is so bad in the kitchen, his mom once apologized to me about it.  Yes, he has no skills, but neither did my dad.  At least T appreciates what I do and helps with the dishes.

Someone once told me that anyone who can read can follow a recipe.  I am going to go ahead and call bullsh!t on that one.  If you don’t cook and someone tells you to deglaze the pan… that doesn’t mean anything to you.  Make a roux?  Don’t get me started.  Recipes have their own language and, like any language, you have to learn how to use it.  Someone has to teach you.

I some times think this blog should be called “The Unprepared Housewife.”   Heinlein was right.  I’m still 16 in my head and waiting for someone to catch me out that I don’t know what I’m doing raising a kid and keeping a house.  I don’t mean that as self deprecation.  I suspect I’m not the only one who feels that way.

Today I canned 20+ lbs of peaches and until I was half way through it honestly hadn’t occured to me that the beauty of those amazingly good brandied peaches is that it uses under ripe peaches.  So as you are prepping peaches for canning, when you run into one that isn’t quite ready, you just throw it into the brandied peach pot and leave it for the next day.  That way all your peaches are usable (or at least start-able) at the same time.

I hadn’t thought of that before I ran smack into it.   None of the recipes I had read (not even the brandied peach recipe) have said anything like “when you cut into a peach and it isn’t quite as ripe on the inside as you had guessed, this is what you do.”  I don’t know if it is just taken for granted that you know how to handle that.  If you don’t know that, what would you do with the eight cups of cut, under ripe fruit?

My mom only canned pickles.  I am charting new territory here.  I am teaching myself about the art of keeping house.  I think I am finally in a head space to learn.

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