…A Time to be Born…A Time to Cook
It was on this day, one year ago, that my mother’s funeral happened. I read a eulogy that I’d written, and was the only one to do so.
I won’t recount that event here, as I’ve written about it before. Instead, I’m thinking about the strange parallels between that event, and today. For example, it rained the night before my mother’s funeral. It rained heavily last night. The morning started out cold, and then the day heated up. It did so again today. As I waited for some sign to emerge, I found it toward the end of my work day.
As I waited for public transport, I heard the growl of a motorcycle down the street. The stereo onboard that hog blasted one of Prince’s songs, Kiss. Mom would have liked that. If it had been Diamonds and Pearls (my mother’s favorite) I may have started to cry where I stood.
Last night, I drank tea out of a paisley cup I’d bought for my mother. It was a birthday gift for from a year before her death. I bought it for her, but she never drank from it, as it may have been too pretty to use. I decided to keep it, and found it’s one of the most elegant things in my kitchen cabinets. Not that the flour, spices, and tea bags aren’t lovely. For that matter, there’s nothing more lovely than well-brewed tea.
Except when you have a really strong mojito made from fresh ingredients by a clever barmaid in Bath…but that’s another story. After one of those, everything looked lovely.
I had a flash back today, to the first time I had tea.
My mother was in her ceramic studio , working on a piece, when I sat next to her in my bathrobe and slippers. I was about eight years old at the time. She let me have some of her tea, which had gone lukewarm, and was inundated with sugar. From then on, I became an addict. I can’t live a single day without tea; by the cup, or the pot, I can’t live without it. It sustains me. Any time I’ve had blood taken, I’ve wondered why it’s not dark-brown, and scented like Earl Grey.
I could barely eat the night that my mother died. I scarcely ate anything until after her funeral. Partly because I blamed myself for her death. But also, because I just couldn’t think about anything else. Tea and pizza was all I had for three days. On the one-year anniversary of her death, I made a meal she would have approved of; mashed potatoes, and a bacon-wrapped steak. It was cooked the way my mother would have liked it, medium-rare. I even used the leftover fluid from the pan as gravy on the mashed spuds. My mother always reused things like that, rather than throw them away. She used that southern method of cooking, where bacon grease was used in lieu of cooking oil; especially when making pancakes. Not the healthiest way to cook, but it was always tasty. I must confess, I did that recently when making sausages. I reused the grease for French toast.
I was always the cook. Mom was the baker.
The most I’ve baked has been recently, with the Bath Buns being the first major challenge. They were made from scratch by me, in honor of the 200th anniversary of the passing away of Jane Austen. She was fond of them, so I thought I’d have a go. I was happy to report they turned out brilliantly. I think my mother would have enjoyed them as well. Though, knowing my mother, she would have wanted to pack my sugar into the mix. She worshiped the white gold from the Caribbean, and put it in everything; even her marinara sauce. I sometimes wonder if that’ll be a lost art; the recipe given from mother to child. I have a fair bit of her recipe cards, so who knows?
I use her cookware when I’m in the kitchen. Those are the only real heirlooms I have of her. From the wooden spoon that was used to stir ice tea in summer, to the neon-bright colanders and cutting boards. It’s as if the kitchen is the one room that reminds me the most of her.
What would her thoughts me on how I make cornbread? Or, how I use silicon pinch bowls when measuring out seasonings by eye? I think she’d be impressed that I try to cook almost every night. I think more so, she’d be pleased I kept her cookware after she died. I might be putting the plates aside in favor of something else (We’ve had them since 1987. They are a bit dated) but everything else is intact.
The night of her funeral, I strung up Christmas lights, so the place wouldn’t look so gloomy. Now, I find myself nothing doing that. Instead, I have a bedroom window open, to let in cool air, and the sound of crickets. Their chirps mingle with the vocals from the BBC proms on the radio. A lilac candle (her favorite scent) burns on the dining room table.
There were no viceroys today. No dreams about her from the night before. Instead, I woke up, went to work, and counted the hours until I’d get back to the flat. I felt tired today, but thoughts of her funeral were not prevalent. I had to focus on other things throughout the day.
Who knows what I’ll dream tonight. Or, when I’ll see the viceroys again. I still see the cardinals, like the ones in our old garden. They give me comfort enough.
Another year has passed, and many more to come.
To quote Linus Van Pelt, “The world didn’t end, Charlie Brown.”
Above photograph taken by the author at No.1 Royal Crescent in Bath, England. I toured the museum there; located in the former architect's residence. The kitchen was the most astounding room.
Text copyright Riley Joyce 2017