I love our kitchen. The longer we live in this house, the more deeply I believe it is one of my favorite places anywhere. I love it not only for its expansive windows that look out over our backyard (the space where we spend most of our free time), but also because it’s the room that holds so much tradition. If a house has a soul, its core is rooted in the kitchen.
Don’t you agree?
I thought about this recently as we prepared our Easter meal. We kept it simple this year, deciding on ribs with all the trimmings. Yes, it may have been more typical of a 4th of July picnic, but no one seemed to mind. Our kitchen comes with no rules, other than that one rule standard for all southern kitchens—we don’t want anyone to leave hungry.
Food, Family, and Vintage Pyrex
John grilled the ribs on his Big Green Egg. My sister brought the only dish which was an absolute requirement—deviled eggs. Her big bowl of potato salad tasted just like Momma’s. I made cole slaw and baked beans.
Those family members no longer with us? I thought of them, in particular, my mother-in-law, Pauline. She has been on my mind lately as I finish up my next book, which is a memoir. I realize I never had the chance to enjoy Easter at her dining room table, but I imagine it must have been fantastic.
My cole slaw? The ingredients were nothing special—a package of shredded cabbage and carrots, chopped green onions, ground jalapeño pepper, salt and black pepper, and several generous spoonfuls of Hellmann’s. But my how that combination of flavors can bring back memories. One spoonful delivered me to backyard cookouts when Daddy made the ribs or to Lake Norfork when Memorial Day meant sun and fun and barbecue.
The best part of my Easter coleslaw was that I served it in Pauline’s vintage Pyrex bowl, the green one that was once part of a four-piece set.
Look how worn it is.
I imagine she used this bowl to serve many, many tasty dishes. Maybe even cole slaw at some point. And you can bet, unlike me, she shredded her own cabbage. Probably grew it, too.
Daddy Made the Best Baked Beans
My beans will NEVER be as good as his. I know this but try nonetheless.
I started with a large can of beans, added sautéed onion and green bell pepper, a little apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, barbecue sauce, salt and pepper, and baked it until it was done. Somehow you know when baked beans are done by the consistency, the way a spoonful of beans feels thick and heavy but not dried out.
Know what I mean?
The best thing about it? I cooked and served my beans in a speckled roasting pan much like the one Momma always used for pot roast. Her roasting pan was larger and oblong while mine is smaller and round, but the pan itself reminds me of Sundays on the farm.
All this cooking got me to thinking about how sometimes it isn’t about the food itself, but instead, it’s about the tradition of cooking, the vintage bowls and handed-down recipes, the cloth napkins that once belonged to my mother-in-law, a centerpiece of purple and yellow iris from the garden. And the idea that we share meals at Easter like we have always done, and that we will continue to do mealtime with family and friends for as long as we are able.
Then, maybe, just maybe, our kids and grandkids will do the same without knowing why they do it.
Back to my beans… now that I think back on it, mine were probably too fussy. One thing I know, Daddy would NEVER put Apple Cider Vinegar in anything.
Grace Grits and Gardening
Farm. Food. Garden. Life.