Not too many years ago, women spent many hours together cooking, sharing recipes, family stories – laughing and even, sometimes crying – together. Life has changed.
Many of us have moved far from family, and most women have to hold down a job just to make ends meet. Many of those home cooked meals, we once regularly enjoyed have been replaced with fast food and restaurants.
The food is not nearly as scrumptious or nutritious, but we’ve also lost that time in the kitchen where we learned about Great Aunt Sally’s stuffing recipe, figured out how to accomplish world peace, and mended many teenage daughters’ broken hearts.
As the holidays approach, we all begin to think of the delicious recipes we’ve enjoyed over the years. It also gives many of us a chance to spend time with loved ones. Many recipes are family originals, or at least, family-tweaked recipes that are beloved by the whole clan.
For you, caregivers to older women, this time of year is the perfect time to get your loved one back into that kitchen, and pull those famous recipes from their minds, before time takes that away, too.
A few years ago, my cousin asked me for my stuffing recipe. I was delighted. She told me that no other recipe would do, because her hubby wanted hers to taste just like mine. Since then, she and I have made my “almost famous hot rolls” together and her family gathering favorite – Polenta and Stew. Whether or not the recipes are preserved, the memories we made working together in the kitchen are precious.
For older women, who spent many years preparing meals for their families, you could not give them a bigger compliment than to ask for the family recipes. But don’t cheat yourself, or them. Get them into the kitchen and you will discover the real secrets to their favorite dishes.
More than that, you will give them a sense of purpose. You’ll give each other memories to last forever. Include your younger women of the family and you’ll have a bonding time that will be sure to begin a family tradition.
One of my cherished memories was learning to make candied sweet potatoes with my granny. She raised her children almost single-handedly. It’s a good thing she loved to cook and could make beans and cornbread taste like a feast. She had a slew of grandchildren which I usually had to share her with during our summer visits. But one year, I had her all to myself. I had gone for a visit during the winter months and I felt so special to spend time with just her.
I always gained 10 pounds when I visited my granny. For breakfast she’d make bacon, eggs, biscuits and gravy, plus rice that she soaked all night and served with butter, cream, and sugar.
We usually didn’t have room for lunch but dinner was started early. For the sweet potatoes, she started by boiling them until they just started getting tender. Then she took out a big iron skillet and melted a cube of butter over low heat.
She peeled and sliced the sweet potatoes, then fried them in the butter. Last, she covered them with a box of brown sugar until the whole thing bubbled into a gooey delight. The sweet potatoes had crispy edges and tasted better than any desert.
I make them every year for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Granny’s been gone for decades, but my memories of being in her kitchen and the taste of her candied sweet potatoes will endure.
Cook with your beloved seniors whenever you can. It means so much to them to be involved with you in an endeavor that THEY can control.