This post is written by Bespoke Traveler contributing blogger, Lisa Glover.
I didn’t have to venture very far this past weekend to feel like I was in a kitchen somewhere in Italy. Growing up, my grandma’s sauce recipe was always my favorite out of my large family of cooks. I loved the way each ingredient blended together, forming a creamy red mixture. The way the sauce simmered on the stove all afternoon and the aromas that filled up the kitchen always brought a feeling of comfort, knowing that spending time with family was a constant. Sundays were usually associated with family dinners, and my favorite pasta meals always took place at my grandma’s. Like most Italian traditions, food has always been an important part of our gatherings. In my family, everything calls for a celebration – birthdays, anniversaries, graduations – I’m beginning to think that Sunday has become its own holiday. Among all of these celebrations, several of my fondest memories with my family have taken place around the dinner table. Many of my most memorable conversations have occurred during a meal: the nights when no one gets up right away to clear the table or start the dishwasher because we’re all too immersed in a conversation, or the times we’d check the clock and realize that several bottles of wine later, time had flown by.
I’m not sure if she realized it, but having my grandma teach me her recipe meant much more than simply learning to cook. I want her sauce to be the first one that I tried on my own, so that it would always bond me to her. I want it to be her that I think of when it comes time to cook for my own family. It’s the recipe that I will someday pass on to my own grandkids, and I’ll recall the time that my grandmother taught it to me. I followed my grandma’s exact instructions as we washed, peeled and diced the ingredients together. With my notepad nearby, I carefully scribbled down the directions after each step. True to Italian form, she wasn’t able to provide me with exact measurements. “Just a little,” was her answer every time I asked how much of something should be added. Or I’d frequently hear “more, more…” when something else, like fresh basil, was to be mixed in. She’d watch closely as I chopped the garlic or sliced the onions, and would tell me when I had just enough. It made me smile because it showed how confident she is with her cooking that she doesn’t refer to a cookbook or even have a need for measuring cups. I only hope that will be me someday. Every few minutes I’d uncover the lid and peek into the pot to stir the sauce. I watched the ingredients fuse together and tease my taste buds with small spoonfuls. With an Andrea Bocelli soundtrack playing softly in the background, I closed my eyes and tried to savor the moment, thinking about all the other recipes of my grandma’s that I still want to learn.
Remembering What’s Important
I have to admit that I’m guilty of the stereotype that my generation often receives when it comes to cooking. I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen preparing dishes, and most of my meals require simply turning a knob on the toaster oven or pressing a button on the microwave. During the week I’m much more accustomed to instant and on-the-go meals. It reminds me of my semester living in Florence and going to the market several times a week to buy fresh produce. With limited appliances in our apartment, my friends and I were responsible for cooking and experimenting recipes on our own. Looking back now, I’m grateful for the lack of microwave and toaster oven because it forced us to learn the basics of cooking. What this all comes down to is time. I’m fond of the saying “you make time for things that are important to you.” In this life, it’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day grind and forget to make time for the things you enjoy, your hobbies, and most importantly, the people that you love. No one has to be told that life is short because we are reminded of it every day. The afternoon of cooking with my grandma just strengthened that notion and made me realize that sometimes the small moments, are what ultimately become, the big memories.