04 February 2008

Homecomings and Goings

Going home is such a funny thing for any grown child- it grows stranger and more surreal with each visit. Living in a foreign country, these homecomings become even more peculiar. Upon each return, new vocabulary words are tossed around to describe trends of which I’m ignorant, a years worth of movies I’ve missed are discussed with faded enthusiasm, ideas have changed, people and pets have died, been born, and gotten married or divorced.

This year, bamboo was suddenly a fabric, Modest Mouse played on the radio, 11 year olds wore Uggs over Skinny-Jeans, global warming became dinner conversation, several new engagements and divorces were announced, and the iPhone became just another household object.

Fortunately, however, some things never really change. One of these things is my mother’s kitchen: always crowded, lively, warm and full of healthy smells. I love to cook in that kitchen. It’s the center of the house, and an adventure in itself. You never know when platters will come careening off their precarious position atop the refrigerator, if you’ll ever find that knife you’re sure existed yesterday, or what surprises you’ll find in the back of the cupboard. It’s a space without time. Sure, she can buy new plates or reorganize the pot lids, but the spirit of that kitchen remains the same: spontaneous and creative. It’s the perfect kitchen for experimenting: if necessity is the mother of invention, then abundance must be the rogue father- and they mingle peacefully in this timeless room. My cousin Shelly, who grew up to be a chef in 5-star restaurants, remembers her first culinary adventures in my mother’s kitchen: a recipe that called for cacao, white sugar and enriched cake flour would be nearly unrecognizable when replaced with carob, molasses and spelt.

While it’s not as extreme in its substitutions as it once was, this kitchen has retained her cozy vagabond soul. She has been the backdrop for my childhood cooking shows and the host to hundreds of dinner parties with countless combinations of guests- some who came to stay and others destined to leave us. She has seen garden grubs explode in a wok, and witnessed my transformation after my first adventure in Italy, as I rolled gnocchi with my future husband. Through all the years and thousands of meals, she has always opened her crumb-covered arms, and welcomed us home.

It’s comforting to know, in a world transforming too quickly to absorb, where my native land feels more alien with each passing day, that there exists this cozy, bustling refuge brimming with the aroma of memory, evolving yet never really changing.


LaLaLaLeah said...

Brilliant and warming.

Caroline said...

Dedo I miss you!

Brent Evans said...

Ahh yes. Let me add a small comment about the trail that these creative souls leave behind them. Like any artist's studio, there is debris and used tools and appliances and puddles and powders randomly decorating the kitchen. Historically, it was me, the papa, who would venture into this chaotic scene after desert and desertion, and begin the clean up. And, it was never drudgery to do the kitchen, because the clutter had been delivered so enthusiastically. Sometimes, though, as the task grew to a close, there remained in the sink the "heart-breakers" - the pots and pans that would require elbow grease and actual effort. Small price to pay for art that can be eaten. Dad

Carolina said...

Ahhh, now I will never remodel! The space is small, but mighty. It carries memories of small children standing on stools in their underwear making those chocolate chip cookies, it carries the scent of fresh herbs from my garden, it carries the joy of cooking together with the loves of my life. A tiny heart can carry the biggest soul.