Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Children begin by loving their parents; as they grow older they judge them; sometimes they forgive them. ~ Oscar Wilde

I was reading a post on another blog about cookbooks. I think the question was, "What is your favorite cookbook and why?"

That would be a hard question for me to answer, but my first thought was The Joy of Cooking. Tom's Aunt Lib gave it to us as a wedding gift, as she did for all the newly marrieds in the family. You always knew you were getting The Joy of Cooking from Aunt Lib and a silver butter dish from Aunt Peg.

Since Tom and I have been married 40 years, my book is old...really old. My edition was printed in 1967. It is stained and the cover has separated from the spine...

but this is the cookbook that literally taught me how to cook. I learned to make Hollandaise Sauce from this book. I learned to cook "real" rice from this book, not the instant rice my mom used to make. I learned how to prepare artichokes for steaming. I learned about garnish and presentation. I still refer to it occasionally.

I also have another cookbook that is really special to me. Chris and Kelly gave it to me for Christmas one year, I think. It's called True Grits, Tall Tails and Recipes from the New South. It was assembled by the Junior League of Atlanta.

I love this book not only for it's recipes (although the recipe for Tiramisu uses cream cheese instead of mascarpone, which just drives me nuts!), but I love the stories of the families. One story in particular that stands out is the story written by Carmen Deedy about Chicken Wings. As she tells it, when she lived in Cuba as a little girl with her family, food often times was scarce, but her father was able to secure a chicken for them occasionally. Her mother would cook the bird, which would shrink to the size of a quail and when it came time to serve the bird for dinner, her father, Papi, would always ask for the chicken wings, insisting that they were the tastiest part of the bird. Carmen and her sister would be served a thigh and a drumstick. Carmen didn't realize until many years later after they had emigrated to Decatur, Georgia, that her father had, in fact, only eaten the chicken wings so his children would have enough to eat.

That story always makes me think about when my kids were growing up, all the times I gave them my strawberries or my cookie or my piece of cake, or even that extra piece of chicken because I loved seeing my kids enjoy it more than I enjoyed it myself. I never understood how a parent could sit in front of a child and devour something they knew their child adored without at the very least sharing it with them. But, I saw many parents do just that.

Maybe what I did wasn't the best thing to do. In some ways, it may have devalued my needs and wants and conveyed to my kids that their needs and wants were more important than mine or Tom's. Or maybe, if I was lucky, it taught them that the sacrifice of something tangible for another person can bring you as much pleasure as if you had consumed it yourself.

In any case, you know, I relate to Carmen Deedy's dad. As a parent, you just want your children grow strong, be happy and enjoy whatever life has to offer them. You do the very best you can with what you know at the time and just hope and pray for the best. Fortunately, I think my kids turned out just fine, although I think they did so in spite of me rather than because of me. But, I'm hoping the extra strawberries had a little bit to do with it.

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