You need to live authentically, and you can't ignore that.
~last night's fortune cookie
I'm doing a little housekeeping here today: deleting labels, cleaning up more than a few messy old posts and trying to figure out if there's any way to create real categories in which to store various labels (seems Blogger is more about form rather than function unless, anyone can tell me otherwise?), while the sauce simmers in the pot. Literally.
It's quiet in the house and as I sit here at the kitchen island all I hear is the slow simmer of the pasta sauce and the bubbles that rise and spit at its surface. The house is filling with the scent of garlic, tomato, oregano, basil and stewing meats, which prompts me to think of Grandmother, who would often come to our old house to help Mother cook dinner. Meatballs were not made with the pre-packaged trio of ground veal, pork and beef that I can find at the supermarket on any given day. Rather, Grandmother fed slabs of meat through the cast iron meat grinder that was clamped to a heavy butcher block my father had made, and I remember the amount of energy that was exerted and the dark, raised veins of Grandmother's hands as she turned the wooden handled crank.
While rounding globs of seasoned meat between the palms of my hands today, I saw Grandmother's hands. Or at least the beginnings of what one might call work hands. Though I never worked the looms of a mill, or really, a meat grinder (except out of youthful curiosity, when it looked like fun, but it was not, it was work). And it was this work--grinding, weaving, canning, sewing, kneading, hanging clothes out back on taut-rope lines--back breaking work, that Grandmother, and my mother to a large extent, discharged on a daily basis.
We rarely went out to eat. And if we did we did not go out to restaurants like Chez Pascal, where fine and ridiculously good French food and wine are served, an art gallery is found in the side room, and whimsical vignettes starring cheese and miniature four-legged creatures are set out on a dusky pine buffet that serves as a room divider at the entry. And that is fine, for had we my fondest memories may not have been of the home-cooked dinners served in our small dining room, where Mother and Grandmother were the last to sit down.
Authenticity is found in the smallest, and sometimes the most banal, things we do. Daily minutiae. How we execute seemingly mindless chores tells us a lot about who we are. We mustn't forget. I wonder if my mother or grandmother ever even had to remind themselves. It's a pity they didn't have time to write about it while the stew simmered.
wow...now that was a good piece of writing tying together old and new and using the housekeeping metaphor....which reminds me, I think it is high time as opposed to low time to do some 'baby let's play house' on a few of my tired old posts...ReplyDelete
oh and i have a bottle of new zealand pinot gris which is ready to go and would match perfectly the meal you make...what time should i turn up? :)
Dan- Come on over--anytime! I made so much sauce I've got to freeze most of it. :)Delete
I didn't spend too much time cleaning up old posts--once I got started I realized that my efforts should be forward, but I at least cleaned up some font inconsistencies. However, the labels! Wish there were a more logical way of archiving and categorizing. I'm still thinking about Wordpress... but that is a daunting task. :/
“. . . garlic, tomato, oregano, basil”, now you’ve made me hungry.ReplyDelete
Supermarkets don’t come close to real, hand-crafted food, or the character of those who make it. Yes, it is a pity your mother and grandmother didn’t have the time to write. Such thoughts would be priceless, I’m sure.
PS, sorry about the spam Twitter message(s). I think it’s all sorted now.
No worries! Looks like many of us were hit by the hacker--who, hopefully, has moved on.Delete
My mom can at least tell me stories, but when she was in the thick of it with her six children she certainly didn't have the time to take notes. Wish she had because she has forgotten many moments. Nevertheless, my siblings and I tend to fill in those lost memories with our own version of story--probably much grander than the original. ;)
Kitchens are great places... inspiring on so many levels! A lovely post Jayne.ReplyDelete
Yes, I tend to live in the kitchen! Thanks, L. ;)Delete
This post made me so hungry! I understand about house keeping. Been thinking I should tidy up my blog as well.ReplyDelete
Made me hungry, too, Elizabeth! And housekeeping, well, I have to be in the mood for housekeeping. Just not something that ever excites me, but helps to keep up. ;)Delete
Lovely, Jayne. What is it about those iconic images---the meat grinder, the clothesline--that calls forth such longing? Our grandmothers and mothers worked incredibly hard, day in and day out, and never thought about it, much less had time to reflect and write about it--such a treasure that would be. We were the generation after all that hard work and participated where and when we were needed. I turned the meat in that same grinder at the kitchen table and it was a lot of work. Remember hanging clean sheets on the line, how wonderful they smelled snapping in the March air; the wringer washer thumping and getting your hands caught between the rollers as you coaxed the clothes through. And sprinkling the shirts on towels at the kitchen table and rolling them up to keep them damp for the iron, which didn't steam. We had our hands on things--which seems to have made it more authentic. Pushing a button, watching blades whirr in a blender, tossing clothes in the dryer--not hard work, and very far removed from doing things with the hands. But would we have the old days back? Sigh.Thanks for this post, Jayne.ReplyDelete
Melissa- I think they are images meant to humble us. Each generation has its hardships, but I wonder, with technological advances offering so many conveniences if they day will come when the older generations will not be able to say to the younger, "You've got it so easy. I remember when I had to..." Future generations may not be so easily humbled. And I doubt, if they knew what they were, they'd want the old days back.Delete
We have a neighborhood ordinance--well, not really an ordinance, but, an unwritten rule-- clothes lines are not permitted in back yards. They are unseemly (do they conjure tenement living?) and incongruent with manicured lawns. I think, though (I hope, anyway) we will see a shift--a back to basics, clean, green living shift that will look unkindly on dryers running all day. It is more work, but hanging clothes is something I never minded. Especially when my brother was tied to the post. ;)
Thank you for your wonderful, lyrical thoughts, Melissa. I almost wish you'd been by my side when I wrote this--I'd forgotten about the iron that didn't steam! I do remember the old (non-electric) foot pedal sewing machine. It's no wonder women did not need to go the gym back then. Yes, having our hands on things does tend to make the experience more intimate and, definitely, more authentic.
what??!! a ban on clotheslines in backyards? where the hell are you meant to dry....oh i see...dunno bout you but i love the look of sheets and clothes fluttering in the sunshine..yeah weird i know, but never having owned a dryer i know no different...its either out the back in summer or in front of the fire in winter for me :)Delete
I know, huh? At least we don't have a neighborhood association--don't think I would have moved here had we. Lots of suburban developments around here have deed restrictions or association rules that ban things like, oh, boats in driveways, in-law apartments, and yes, even clothes lines (the Amish would have trouble here), or restrictions that limit the color or style of house to be built. Lots of cookie-cutter planning. What, you don't see the appeal? ;) (I'm plotting my escape.)Delete
"Authenticity is found in the smallest, and sometimes the most banal, things we do. Daily minutiae. How we execute seemingly mindless chores tells us a lot about who we are." I have to say, this worries me, for the really authentic me would rather not do any chores at all! What would Freud say, she wonders . . .ReplyDelete
Susan- I'll bet most of us feel the same way. Chore aversion is a mass psychosis. I doubt there's any quick pill fix. I think we all need to spend more time with the therapist. It's good for the writing, too. ;)Delete
I like this post extremely. In our textile town, all my female relatives from my grandmother's generation worked in those mills at some point. And canned, ironed, made clothes, hung clothes, and whipped up cakes and mayonnaise from scratch by hand. Some days, I can't tell you four things I've done and I'm often saluting those thirties and forties women who still had time to be kind to a saucy little squirt.ReplyDelete
And made piccalilli with young, green tomatoes and sweet spices packed in Ball jars! That was fun. I've gone through periods of canning-- beets and jam and the sort. But not since the kids were born. Our grandmothers and mothers had one luxury we do not: They did not have taxi driver duties. Other than that--from one saucy little squirt to another--they absolutely deserve a GRAND salute.Delete
Oh, I love your fortune cookie, and your authentic reflection upon it!ReplyDelete
Kathleen - Thank you. I'm hoarding those cookies. :)Delete
Well you know I'm all about Authenticity, Jayne. :DReplyDelete
I really need to do some tidying up as well. When you find the proper way to categorize your posts, let me know so I can do the same.
Lovely post as always. And now, I simply must have some spaghetti and meatballs...
Bill- Haven't found it yet. I think we'll have to demand it from Blogger. Or all switch to Wordpress.Delete
Shall I bring you some of my sauce? I'm due back in Boston soon enough. ;)
i remember cranking my mother's meat grinder while she fed the meat into the throat. she was always worried i'd stick my finger in so being a typical brat i always kept my fingers close to the blade.ReplyDelete
Billy- You and my younger brother have a LOT in common. And I'll bet your finger got slices at least a couple of times, too.Delete
Jayne, this was excellent. Not only worth reading for content, but beautifully executed. The jokers at Google ain't got nothin' on ya, babe -- perfect synthesis of function and form. Well done. And cheers to the memory of Grandmother's hands.ReplyDelete
Thanks much, Suze. But I'm not yet ready for Grandmother's hands! Oh dang. There's no stopping it. Ok, well, I'm just going to have to wear those veins with great pride. :)Delete
Ah, see, this is why I keep coming back here. It never gets boring, even when you're talking about "seemingly mindless chores."ReplyDelete
You've got authenticity down to a lifestyle and an art.
Ha, Nessa- Lifestyle and art? Talk to my kids about that! I am the crazy lady born of mindless chores. Authentically, though. ;)Delete
beautiful post! I remember that grinder of my grandmother, too - one thing speaks for it: you absolutely knew what was in your meatballs.
Home as a working place: my grandmother and the washing-day - a whole day, no machines, no tumble-dryer.
Britta- I'm so happy I'm not the only one who remembers the meat grinder! Meat pies were a staple in my big French family, so ours was always clamped to the heavy butcher block. I'm begging to feel like maybe it's time to invest in one. Actually, I have a KitchenAid mixer that, I believe, has a meat grinder attachment option. Hmm... Then I'd worry about my son (like Billy) keeping his fingers too close to the mouth of it. Boys.Delete
My mother still makes a day of her wash. ;)
I loved this. When I cook, I think of my mom and my grandmothers. They were all awesome cooks. Cooking calms my soul. I have passed this down to my daughters.ReplyDelete
I like what you said about the hands...I see my mom's hands when I look at mine now-it's comforting in a way.
Loree- Those are comforting thoughts. Brings us back to the heart of the home. I love to cook, but when the kids were small, it became a real task. I couldn't concentrate like I used to, and so I stopped cooking some of the more challenging dishes that I loved. Now that they're teens, I'm staring to breathe again, my focus is sharpening, and I love it when I can spend a day at the stove. Doesn't happen often, but when it does it's good therapy. :)Delete
Nice description of past times. I remember this kind of old-style real cooking from my childhood. My grandmother's fresh blood-sausage when the pig was slaughtered (my job was to stir the bucket of blood to stop the coagulation), and my grandfather's homemade fish cakes. Now we just heat pre-packaged food from the supermarket.ReplyDelete
Cold As Heaven
Cold- Oh my gosh--that sounds wonderful! Fresh blood sausage (and fishcakes!). Wow, I'd-a loved to have been around for the makings of that. I don't know if I can find blood sausage in our supermarkets, but when we travel to Canada, we always order it at the restaurants. Kids love it.Delete
I'm a big fan of Tony Bourdain (who also loves blood sausage) who said: "People are treating me differently since I whacked the pig." (He did do it too, and if I can remember the show, I'll post it here. It was an ALL day cajun pig fest.)
The town in S. Jersey where my mother grew up, and where my grandparents lived (duh :)), used to have a family market at one end, just before you crossed over the town line. It actually looked kinda like a house with a big porch; the exterior was of faded yellow-painted clapboard. They butchered their own meat there, and wrapped it in stiff, brown-orange paper, which they then tied up with string. The spool which fed the string to them was on a shelf clear across the store, and the string ran up one wall and across the ceiling on pulleys before coming down in mid-air to the countertop and the clerk's deft fingers. (They delivered groceries via bicycle, too, a nice convenience to be sure -- but if you had your groceries delivered then you missed going into the store. A dilemma, not always easily resolved.)ReplyDelete
The large to be found in the small is one of my favorite themes/topics. Thanks for adding to the store this little gem of a butcher-paper-wrapped post.
P.S. And threaded comments here, too...!
JES- Boy, they don't make markets like they used to, eh? Oh my, I just love the image of the spool of string in mad rotation, string winding its way across and around the store as the clerk ties it all up. That's some serious entertainment--wouldn't that make a great little animated short?Delete
I would bike to that store myself! And thank you for so kindly wrapping up my post. :)
(I like the threaded comments, but on this particular Blogger thread there's no option to check off "email follow up comments"--which some people, like myself, tend to like. They've still some work to do here in Bloggerville.)
I think the "Subscribe by email" link -- below and to the right of the box where you enter a comment -- might be the "email follow-up comments" thing you miss. :)Delete
Sometime in the last couple of years I actually had a dream about that old market, with the butcher paper and spool of string and what-not. And, I think, incorporated the scene into a story idea. But I've forgotten the latter, ha. Now I suppose I've got to dig it out from the cruft on the hard drive...
I wonder if I'm getting to the end of this thread... thanks for pointing out the "Subscribe..." link. I'm going to have to take it for a test drive.Delete
From your description of the butcher area of that market, your dream must have been pretty vivid. If you come up with your piece (story), I'd love to see how you incorporated the scene. :)
I remember the meat grinder.ReplyDelete
Thought provoking. Do you think we've lost authenticity in general?
Antares- Well, that's a loaded question! In general, I like to think not. As a culture, this country seems to have lost any sense of authenticity. And I hate to say that without elaborating (mass production--overseas-- mass consumerism, cheap products, labels, labels, materialism, material wealth as a be all, end all, homogenization of, well, so many things--all big generalizations, but, today... today what I'm quite tired of seeing is images on the TV, in shopping mall stores, and elsewhere that tell my 12 year old daughter that she should look and act like she's 25 (which means wearing skimpy clothing and lots of make-up). The sexualization of little girls. These are the images/messages that tell our daughters who/what they should be. Aaarrggghhh!!Delete
What I find to be the real shame, is that in our culture (and I'm speaking in general, and quite off the cuff, about the American experience) it's hard to find oneself. That we don't embrace Different makes it hard to be oneself. But I want to believe that we'll continue to evolve, and progress toward a more authentic life for all, toward an understanding that it really is the little things, those quality moments, that count.
No need to elaborate, I know exactly what you mean. Although I describe it as a loss of individuality. Homogenization is a word I've been using a lot, movies, music, it's all the same, over and over.Delete
That's a whole different topic and very disturbing. We were recently discussing that they can look fashionable without looking like,...well...you know.
And it is the wonderful authenticity you lend to this blog site that endears so many, Jayne! It's always a joy to stop by here! Bon Appetit! ;)ReplyDelete
Thank you, Michael, I'm glad you think so. Maybe this weekend I'll open the kitchen for fine French cooking. I need to find a good butcher shop. (Wouldn't I love to have around here a shop like JES mentioned.) :)Delete
Jayne, what a beautiful memory you've shared. The ropey viens, the meat grinder; I still remember the sound it would make when it hit a lump of grizzle. Funny how those odd little moments remain in my memory and yet I have no memory of my wedding night. LOL!ReplyDelete
Authenticity, that's what makes us uniquely our own. That's what I love about your blog... it's uniquely Jayne, which is such a gift.
"...lump of grizzle." Love that Leah--sounds so... gory!Delete
Oh, the wedding night, well, one wonders if they were actually there at their own wedding, don't they? I don't remember a whole lot about mine, either, except for the wild jazz and blues band we had. Oh yes, I remember dancing ALL night!
Authenticity is so important. I love how you've related it to the everyday things we do.ReplyDelete
Thanks, Susan. I didn't insert too much backstory, did I? Ha! ;)Delete
This is lovely.ReplyDelete
Thank you, Laoch. :)Delete
You are describing my mother's life and, frequently, mine too. I still have a cast iron meat grinder, although I haven't used it for millennia. In the summer I hang the laundry out on the line in the garden, and I cook meals from scratch practically every day. Okay, I no longer do my own cleaning or all of my gardening, but, until recently, I made jams and jellies, preserved fruit and vegetables and felt seriously proud when I looked into my larder.ReplyDelete
I like it that there is room for everything in life, the old ways and the new;
Writing about them brings them all back.
I found you at Susan Scheid's blog and liked your comment.
Friko- Thanks for finding me here. Your name and face are familiar--I think we share an interest in a few blogs. Hanging laundry on a line in a garden--fresh linens absorbing garden essence--that sounds wonderful. I used to love canning, the whole process of carefully cooking the goods, packing them and gently sealing the lid. And the steam bath afterwards... that is work, the good kind, though, and something to be proud of.Delete
Room for everything, new and old, like a circle unbroken. :)