Reading

Recommended Enrichment Reading: At Grandmother's Table, like Willow’s story of Clara, "This is a book about connections," says Editor Ellen Perry Berkeley. "And in connecting across the dividing lines of our own time, we can see our deepest selves reflected in women of very different backgrounds, beliefs, advantages, and pursuits." Often poignant, At Grandmother's Table is filled with the stories of hard-working, loving, difficult, loyal women and the meals they created for their beloved grandchildren. --Dana Van Nest

Project

Recommended Quilting Project: Cabin Flowers Pattern, capture the quaint cabin story of Clara and Vance with this petite log cabins surround English Paper- Pieced diamond star flowers pattern which is an easy-to-make project from Connecting Threads. Pre-cut paper pieces are included, along with instructions for the English Paper Piecing technique. Perfect for your table!

Celebration: Handing Down With Heart

By Willow Coyote

For people around the globe, the sharing of food is at the core of who we are. It creates community within our cultures and foundation within our families. Vivid sense memories, created by my grandmother’s instinctual approach to food, have been indelibly inlaid in the layers of my own evolution. Those remembrances have served well to guide me as a mother, and now as a grandmother, defining the quality of sense memories of my own that I want to impart to those who come behind me.

At holiday time, the first olfactory indicator of coming delights would fill my grateful nose as soon as my grandfather swung open the heavy wooden Dutch doors that he had constructed and hung himself at the entrance to the beach cabin that he and my grandmother shared. His blue eyes twinkled as he welcomed his daughter’s family into their home. The melange of my grandfather’s pipe tobacco, Old Spice after-shave and his ever-present Planter’s dry-roasted peanuts permeated his flannel shirt and I drank it in as we hugged. This scent would quickly be replaced by the spicy pepper of the geraniums flourishing year-round on the enclosed sun porch as we made our way to the back door, and blended even further with the mouth-watering aromas that doors and windows could not contain as they escaped the confines of the kitchen. The metal screen door creaked as Grandpa opened it. As we walked across the threshold of the open door behind it, the full sensory measure of what lie in store was made evident. There would be Grammy, her wide smile supporting cheeks flushed red by her labors. She would be sporting a colorful apron and holding her arms open to greet us as we filed in with our suitcases. Everything gleamed warm and cozy in her kitchen, painted red, yellow and blue. Her beloved Spode china sparkled on the shelves that my grandfather had built, wonderful things bubbled and steamed in pots on the stove, and turkey sizzled in the oven. Pies, puddings and cakes cooled on the table, and I would have already spied my favorite holiday treat, pastry twists dusted with powdered sugar and colorful sprinkles. Grammy placed them in the glass humidors in which her own father had kept his pipe tobacco so many years before. Now, in full view on her red tea cart, they housed the cookies that she knew I loved, and she always watched my face to catch my delight when I saw them there. When I looked to her to say “Thank you,” she was ready for me with a smile and a mischievous wink already under construction.

My Danish grandmother, Clara, and my Irish grandfather, Vane, loved each other dearly. They had met when my grandmother volunteered as a Red Cross worker in the small community of Oretown, where her family had a small farm on the Oregon coast. She randomly drew his name from a list of lonely young soldiers to write to during WWI. They initially corresponded as friends, fell in love through the post over one and one-half years and, after he was discharged from the service, he came home to court her formally and ask her parents, Christian and Mathilde, for her hand. They married and built a life together that eventually found them retired in that lovely cabin in Long Beach, Washington.

Cookbook Many years later, and long after Grandpa had crossed over to The Other Side, Grammy’s fervent wish to join him was granted after she suffered a brief but devastating illness. I was three years younger than my daughter, Karli, is now when she passed. Since I had evolved into somewhat of a self-taught gourmet cook by then, my mother, Betty, thought it appropriate that Grammy’s kitchen things should come to me. I was grateful, and offered no argument. Among the boxes I unpacked was a small, red, metal box containing recipe cards for countless family classics. (Alas, the recipe for the pastry twists was not to be found, and eludes me to this day). As I went through the file one rainy afternoon, something unique about the cards began to emerge… Grammy had written in their margins, “Vane loved this,” “Vane didn’t like this at all,” “Bessie gave me this,” or, “This was awful!” Initially intrigued, and then inspired, I began writing in the margins of my own cookbooks. In my well-worn copy of The Joy of Cooking, Circa 1972, I annotated the recipe that I knew Karli would want to define as “that” recipe for the béchamel sauce that she loves; I went to The Larousse Treasury of Country Cooking to tag the recipe for onion soup Lyonnaise that we have morphed into our own family favorite, as I did to Greek Islands Cooking book to let her know that, contained within, she would find the recipe for the braided holiday bread with mastic gum that has been a part of our Thanksgiving table for decades. Those notes tell of substitutions made, family and friends served, and lessons learned about following one’s own instincts in the kitchen… as well as in life.

Cookbook I have continued to make those recipe notations through the years, knowing that someday, like me, my daughter will sift through what she has inherited after I pass on. Stories from her own past, silent to everyone else who reads them and heard aloud only to her in her mother’s voice will come to her. Those silently spoken stories will connect her with all of the remarkable women of her family who have come before, left their mark and have shaped who she is now. They will inform what she passes on to her own beautiful daughter, Grace, and I am deeply grateful that she knows the value of the time that they share together in the kitchen. I am now for Gracie who Clara was for me… and I hold that torch aloft with gratitude and awareness of the gift contained in that continuity. Gracie and I have created our own tradition in making the braided bread together every Thanksgiving. It occurs to me that, in the doing, perhaps we are giving rise to more than bread… perhaps we are giving rise to Gracie’s own stories, someday to be shared with a child of her own connection. Together, they may shape a braided loaf on a day of thanks that they will define as their own. And perhaps when they do, they just might take a moment in remembrance of Mathilde, Clara, Betty, Willow and Karli, all of whom came before, all of whom left our love behind… and not just in the margins.

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