Today I awoke to fall leaves and cool, crisp morning air, and it made me think back to a time about 10 years ago. The apple tree in our backyard yielded bushels and bushels of apples that fall, and my mom and I had a ball creating all the apple concoctions we could think of. We made apple pies, apple crisp, and applesauce. We worked all day cutting, prepping, freezing, and cooking apples. There were so many delicious apples I did not want to waste them. We sliced them, coated them in sugar and cinnamon, and put them in freezer bags. I bet I had 20 gallons of apples prepped and ready to go for the season. My kitchen was transformed into a real apple pie filling factory. I was raised as a task master, so being able to see the fruits of my labor is fulfilling. Yes, pun intended!
You see--I come from a blue collar family. On my father’s side, my Grandpa Barrale was a painter, and my Grandma Barrale worked for GE in a factory that made lightbulbs. On my mother’s side, my Grandpa Ream worked for a car company. He helped design the cars that you ride up in at the Gateway Arch. He was a self-made template maker with a 12th grade education. My Grandma Ream quit school in 9th grade to help her mother pay the bills by sweeping off people's front porches. Later in life, she worked in a factory making thermostats for White Rodgers. Collectively, they were some of the hardest working people I ever knew. They had quotas to meet, worked hard, and spent the day standing on their feet. At the end of each day, they felt gratified by the completion of their tasks. They knew the value of hard work and took pride in what they did. Both of my grandparents worked all week and then spent the weekends cooking and entertaining the family. Family was their priority. My grandparents lived a street away from one another, so we had lunch at one home and then dinner at the other on Sundays.
The Ream family would cook fried chicken, mashed potatoes, pot roast, biscuits, and other southern, home cooked meals. The Barrale family always had spaghetti; it is considered a side dish for us Italians. My grandmother and aunts would make spedinis, frittatas, and stuffed mushrooms just to name a few. Sundays were delicious!
I think this is why my love of cooking developed. My grandmothers never really measured when they cooked.They also did not waste food. I remember my Grandma Ream trying to teach me how to make a pie crust. She mixed the Crisco™ with the flour mixture and grabbed it in a clump. She said, “When it feels like this and looks like this, it’s good.” To this day, I still cannot make pie crust like she did, but I do understand what she meant. When you make a recipe or a dish enough, you just know when it’s right. “To me, cooking is less of task and more of a feeling of happy memories.”
What I have learned: Food is love and can create beautiful memories.
Tania Farran is an educator, mom, business owner, and an author. Her blogs tell about balancing all of these things in life! Laugh or cry with her and maybe learn a thing or two.