Instructor Did NOT Like My Work

Dear Reader:

“My Favorite Kitchen” did not earn high praise. This does not crush me; in fact, it rather excites me. It gives me the impetus to ask: Why do I write? It fires me up! It makes me thankful that I’m 57 years old and so I can see that it doesn’t matter that my instructor didn’t appreciate my essay. It makes me think about other writers; it makes me think about readers.

First, I write because I’ve always admired writers and loved books. I write because I enjoy the challenge of it and I am so elated when I feel I’ve got it just right. Nathaniel Hawthorne said “Easy reading is damn hard writing.” Yes, it is!

Sometimes I write because I hope I can help someone. I always turn to the page when life becomes difficult for me. I look for advice and comfort and I find it. When I wrote about my brother’s death, my decision to be a stay-at-home mom and the benefits of Prozac, I was reaching out to you, dear reader.

I also write because it’s more fun than cleaning, jogging, golfing, cooking….etc.!  In other words, I enjoy it. And, it is nice to think that others enjoy reading my posts. With you in mind, I  keep my entries as short as possible and as entertaining and truthful as possible.

When I was asked to write 750 words describing a kitchen…I thought:  What? Why? I don’t want to write that. (BTW…750 words just happens to be my self-imposed max limit: I figure if I can do death, marriage and antidepressants in that many words, I should be able to convey most ideas within that word count!)  So, I improvised. I didn’t adhere to the word count. I didn’t offer generous details of how the kitchen looked (I can’t remember what color the walls were or how the countertops looked). I tried to make the topic work for me and this venue.

I decided to publish the work here because I thought it might remind you of your own grandmother or inspire you to allow someone to linger in your work space, and I added the recipe because I thought you’d like that!

Off to make some coffee,

Michele

 

 

 

 

My Favorite Kitchen

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Dear Reader:

I started another writing course this week through Stanford Continuing Studies; I’m having trouble with it. When I write to you, I decide on the topic. But, today,  I’ve been given a writing prompt that I must adhere to!  You, dear reader, now have the opportunity to read my first submission to the class: an essay about a “memorable kitchen” with a bonus recipe!

 

I’m not much of a cook, but I do love to eat so it seems appropriate that the only kitchen I ever really loved was a kitchen that I did not cook in. It was very small and it existed in a different time. One could move between the sink, table, stove and refrigerator with just a few steps. It was brightly lit with three windows counting the one that occupied the top half of the back door that led to the herb garden. There was no dishwasher or microwave, but the phone resided there on a tiny table adjacent to the stove.

This kitchen was alive. I can not picture it empty and yet, of course, it was …when Nonnie slept. I had many meals there and, without exaggeration or exception, they always satisfied me. I could tell you about the dough that was handmade, rolled and cut on the kitchen table or the sauce that simmered on the stove all day. I could try to convince you that a simple vegetable soup with a bit of pasta and meat could be a culinary delight. Or I might conjure up the image of crispels frying in a pan of oil until crispy and then covered in powdered sugar or warm honey and enjoyed with coffee.

My grandmother spent most of her days in this room. It delighted her to cook for family, friends and, of course, the clergy. She prepared meals for the priests at her church often and the bishop was thrilled when his visits coincided with her food deliveries. (Priests lined up to give the eulogy at her funeral!)

Her kitchen was akin to an artist’s studio, but she generously shared it. It was calming and reassuring to simply sit and watch her mix, roll, cut and fold. She completed these repetitive tasks with great joy and precision. She did not require participation in the task at hand, but she was glad to have you step outside to pick the herbs she needed or to allow you to take over the task of frying or filling.  Often, I just sat, though, and fully appreciated the warm companionship she offered while she worked.

Truly, I loved everything Nonnie cooked and baked, but it is a small meal in a mug that I remember most fondly. I would love to share the recipe with you!

 

Nonnie’s Beaten Egg Breakfast

Ingredients:

  • strong coffee
  • egg yolks
  • brown sugar
  • milk
  • and a loving companion

Brew the coffee while warming the milk slowly in a small saucepan. Crack and separate the eggs placing a yolk in each cup. Add a bit of brown sugar and beat the yolk and sugar together. Slowly, while stirring, add the hot coffee to the eggs to temper them slowly. Finish with warm milk to taste.

 

I remember many mornings spent with Nonnie enjoying this simple, sweet pleasure. I lived with her for several months after my parents divorced and I started college. Those coffee mornings gave me the sustenance I needed to pursue my future independently and the love my grandmother gave me remains with me to this day.

Thanks for reading!

Michele

 

 

 

 

 

Lavender Blue for You!

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Lavender in bloom at Carmel Valley Ranch

Lavender’s blue, dilly dilly, lavender’s green,

When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen.

Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?

Twas mine own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

—English folk song and nursery rhyme dating to the 17th century

 

 

 

 

Ideas are Very Cagey Things

Dear Reader:

Get to work before it’s too late!

That idea 

catch it

before it slips away 

An idea is a very cagey thing.

First you’ve got it

then you’ve lost it.  

Where did it go?

 Is it with someone else?  

Is that the idea?

 Does it wish to be caught

 expressed?

Surely.

It zips around alighting here and there until someone sees how splendid it is

how witty and wise

She catches it and puts it on paper or canvas or a blog.

There’s another.

Grab hold of it.

Reach out to it 

 Where does it carry you  

Do you fly or swim or float or glide or skip?

Ideas are very cagey things.

Have fun,

Michele

What’s at the Bottom of Your Heart?

Dear Reader:

I attended a half day writer’s workshop yesterday…you know the routine. After the facilitator reads inspiring works of literature, you are given a writing prompt and 30 minutes to record your thoughts. Usually, I’m not fond of the prompts, but I liked this one, so I thought I’d pass it along to you.

At the bottom of your heart…

At the bottom of my heart, there’s a mess

A beautiful mess

There are stacks and piles, bits and fragments,

Bright colors and blurred lines

All collected over more than half a century

It is a painful and joyous mix

It is particular and general

Fanciful and serious

It is, I imagine, not so different from what is at the bottom of every one else’s heart

And, yet it is uniquely mine.

There is the face of my very elegant third grade teacher who seemed to approve of me in the way I wished my mother had and often simply wrote “tres bien” at the top of my papers.

There is the memory of the summer day when I drove my shiny new olive-green 1967 Mustang down the street and the handsome guy stopped in the car next to me at the red light shouted out his approval.

There is a small herb garden just outside the kitchen door at my Nonnie’s house. I’m picking and she’s cooking just inside.

There is the note I’ve left on the counter for my grandmother 35 years ago stating that “Tom has picked me up for dinner and will return me at around 8 or 9 …. Or “maybe never” scrawled in his horrible writing below mine.

There is a smile that stands out from the rest. It’s the smile of a darling boy who grows into a very handsome young man but never has the chance to grow old.

There is an angel, Mary. Once a week for that horrible year, I came to her and spilled out my life. She helped me find my strength.

There is the Mexican family who served us dinner for years in their tiny restaurant, and also opened their hearts to me and my family.

There are the faces of neighbors and friends who have come and gone but will always remain.

There is the doctor with the heavy German accent, the stylish blonde hair and the sensible brogues worn with fashionably simple black under her white coat. I trusted her with my daughter.

And my daughter, so difficult in birth, yet so easy in life. My joy.

There is a push and a pull at work in this very messy heart. It can be difficult to leave the door open. It is not without pain or risk or effort. But it is not yet full.

I’d love to know what’s at the bottom of your heart, dear reader!

Sincerely,

Michele

 

 

From a Scrap of Paper

Dear Reader:

I found a scrap of paper! You must have some, too!

 for my daughter

my prayer is that you know

know that you are loved

and carry that love with you

wherever you go

reach for it when you are glad

call upon it when you are sad

and, in return, that love will

strengthen you when you feel weak

warm you when you feel lonely

celebrate with you when you succeed

and envelop you all your days

Mom

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