Photo by: Dedda:Wikipedia Commons
One of my fondest childhood memories is of going to my great grandmother’s house on a hot Sunday afternoon. I can imagine the sound of my mom’s keys clanking against each other as she took them out of her bag. I remember the loud noise the 1000 pound wrought iron gate made when my mom would slam it closed. The lock stuck and there was a “trick” to getting the gate open and just some good old brute force to get it closed. We would always just let ourselves into the house and walk down a dark unlit hallway to great grandma’s kitchen. She was very hard of hearing and she would never hear us come in. To my surprise, she never seemed startled, which made me feel like I was always welcome there. Great grandma’s kitchen was the center of her universe and that’s where steaming hot bowls of pasta were served even on the hottest days. There was also no such thing as not being hungry. Food was love, and you didn’t say no to love.
We sat around her massive kitchen table underneath an offensively bright florescent light and waited for her to bring the food to the table. The table was always covered with an assortment of ongoing crafts projects, tiny pieces of yarn, dried craft glue, scissors, word search books, reading glasses and an old gaudy ceramic fruit bowl filled with bottles of medicine. Sometimes my chubby sweaty arms would stick to the cheap plastic tablecloth, which was never a good feeling. She would tell us to sit while she worked her magic at the stove and I took it all in. There was no tablet, no smart phone and no cable TV. I just enjoyed being there with her while I looked through her crafts stuff or played with a deck of cards. Grandma would pace back and forth in front of her stove and she would only eat with us after everyone else had everything they needed. Watching her cook was like watching someone weave on a loom. She was methodical and her feet were constantly moving.
Even on the hottest days in August she would let her sauce simmer for hours. The bubbles would randomly pop up on the surface of the pot splattering droplets of sauce all over the top of her stove. Grandma’s kitchen would get so hot in the summer and I remember feeling intoxicated from the mixture of the smell of the food and the heat. I could feel the grease condensing on my skin and my sinuses burned from all the garlic she used. To grandma, the heat appeared to be only mental because she never broke a sweat. Even when she was standing over a pot of scalding hot water for pasta, she appeared to be completely un-phased. For her the heat didn’t matter because, like life, you had no choice but to live in it, so why complain? I vividly remember her standing in front of her stove on those hazy days poking meatballs with a fork as the molten oil popped and cracked and the aroma of parmesan cheese and garlic anesthetized my mind. When food smells that good, nothing else really matters.
My great grandma has long passed and now I am only left with the memories of those hot Sunday afternoons with her. These memories will stay with me forever, especially on a hot summer day when I can almost smell the parmesan cheese and garlic. I can imagine the bowls of the steaming pastaon her table, and for a brief moment I can still feel her love. To great grandma, food was love, and you didn’t say no to love.