Cooking With Heart (tf)

I think this is Stevens’ way of elbowing me in the ribs and saying….”come on kid, let’s see you do 5oo words on cake mixes.”

One of the reasons I admire Stevens so much as a writer is that he can do 500 words on cake mixes and make it damn good reading even for those who would consider baking a cake from scratch preposterous. Like me for instance.

I once wrapped chicken nuggets in tin foil and put them in the microwave. I once boiled hot dogs in a plastic pan. I was once asked to make a pot of coffee and didn’t know where to put the coffee grounds. I once manned the grill on our back porch and nearly set the shades on fire. I was asked one time to “warm up” the oven, and when my wife and kids got home they discovered the oven cold as ice. Apparently all I’d done was re-set the clock.

As a result of all this nobody ever asks me to do anything in the kitchen, which works out well for me. I’m not even allowed to use the dishwasher anymore, one time having jammed the door by sticking a fork where it didn’t belong.

So you see….to me the kitchen is a place of horrors. Like one of those theme rides where things jump out at you and make you scream.

But there is one thing I remember. One of those golden memories that come from childhood.

We lived next to 3 sisters. Two were war widows. The third never married. They were nice ladies. Had a dog named Sammy. He looked like an anorexic bulldog, and could do no wrong in their eyes. You’d be in their house and this dog would be ripping chunks of flesh out of your leg and they’d just laugh at how friendly and playful he was. You had to wait for them to turn around so you could kick the bloodthirsty little cur and make him go away.

Anyway, I digress. Their kitchen. It looked like any other. But the smells! Years and years of living next door. Every time you stepped foot in that kitchen it smelled of something wonderful. Cookies or cakes or fudge. I have no idea what it was. I never saw them baking anything. Nothing was ever left out to nibble on. Since all three ladies smoked like fiends, the rest of the house smelled like it was occupied by three ladies who smoked like fiends. But this smell never permeated the kitchen. It was like the kitchen was somehow sealed off….and was its own laboratory. A laboratory of smells that you never forget even 30+ years later. If I go somewhere when I die, I hope it smells like this kitchen.

One by one the sisters passed on. Mary was the last. My father took care of her, eventually hiring nurses to come in. You’d need a crane to get Mary into a nursing home. And when her dog Sam died she got another one just like him. I forget his name but this dog would rip your larynx out if you separated him from Mary. It was touching in a way.

Mary passed on as well. Cancer I think it was. She never stopped smoking. Every chair in the house had at least a dozen burn holes in it. How she didn’t torch the place I have no idea. We had to help shutter things up. I walked through that back door one more time. Into that kitchen. Mary had been confined upstairs for months. How was it possible?

It smelled like something delicious had just come out of the oven.

–Tom Flannery

~ by admin on March 31, 2011.

One Response to “Cooking With Heart (tf)”

  1. I think YOU win this round, Tom. It’s the Icing on the Cake!

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