“Out of the Kitchen-Adventures of a Food Writer” by Jeannette Ferrary

May29

I am having a hard time paring down my favourite excerpts from this recent read, but I think that I may finally have them. In my life, I have always retained an empathetic quality. Some may even say it is a curse, as I get so engaged with the characters in the non-fiction and indeed, the fiction that I consume or the movies or TV shows that I watch, that I sometimes have a difficult time turning off “their” lives and returning to my own. Ask D about the incident after we watched the movie “Sophie’s Choice” together….  Stories that really engage me, cause me to reflect about similar incidents in my own life and the more similar the circumstances, the more enthralled I become. Some writers have an exception power to enrapture me and so it was when I read this work by Jeannette Ferrary “Out of the Kitchen”.   The first excerpt one is from her Prologue-yes, I was smitten by her words that quickly.

There must have been something way back somewhere, there must have been seeds that eventually flowed into a passion for food, its history and meanings and unending pleasures; the joy of growing and preparing and sharing food with friends, of seeing it as a heritage and comfort and love.
There must have been something.
That’s what this book is all about.

For Jeannette it was this book and for me it is Food Musings. I created this blog for reasons very different from the place that I am at now, three years later. I use this space to explore myself and my complicated association with food.*

It’s miserable when you are three and your’re trying to save face and you don’t know how to manipulate the situation. “Are you hungry?” To be honest, I can’t say with absolute certainty this was the exact moment that I understood the significance of this question. But it was definitely around this time that I learned the power f food, especially with respect to mothers. If you’re hungry, they (mothers) have t say “O.K. Come on upstairs and have your lunch now.” They might even say it will be the red soup with the square carrots and alphabet noodles in it, but don’t expect miracles. If you hobble into the kitchen, they will also notice your scraped knees and put Mercurochrome on them and cover them with new white Band-aids. In other words, if you say you’re hungry they have to pay attention. New little baby brothers notwithstanding.

When I was three, my Mom and Dad had twins and I love my brother and sister with all my heart. Thank heavens my independence was fostered back then, because it has held me in good stead ever since. But, there were some traumatic times, that I remember still. Since I was a rambunctious toddler who had a hard time respecting quiet nap time for the “babies”, my Mom would lock the backdoor behind me when I was playing in the yard. The system actually worked well, because when I was ready to come back into the house, I would ring the door bell which had a single chime, instead of bursting in on the quiet scene. The only trouble was, I was not quite tall enough to reach the bell and so I had to hold the door knob and stretch way over to the opposite side to cover the length. One day, a gust of wind made the door swing open and me with it and threw me down the back cement stairs. The fall, broke the skin under my chin and the bleeding was profuse (at least in my young mind). I still have the scar to this day and I live in a home that notoriously never locks their doors. I am sure that my mother soothed me with food as I have done with my own children. J1 says that is how he developed his love for sour cream and chive chips, because he could choose a package from the vending machine as his reward for paying attention in Saturday swimming lessons.

Maybe because she never felt too comfortable speaking English, we never talked much, a bit about school or how my brothers were doing. Her message was in the brown canvas bag and on the mahogany dining room table, in the Wedgwood bowl and all over the kitchen. It said I love you, you’re too skinny, come back soon. It said I can never do enough for you, it said this is my heritage, this is your heritage; remembering this food will some day change your life. It will be your music, And your song.

I was said to have resembled my little Polish Grandma. In fact, she would call me her little “Payak” (which was her maiden name) because I reminded her of her own sisters. She too struggled with her English, having immigrated to the “new country” with her two young sons, a year after her husband, leaving behind the grave of another baby son in the “old country”. When she couldn’t retrieve an English word, she would say “How, call dis ting”? I can hear it now, even though she has been gone almost 25 years. Our common language was her prune dumplings with melted butter, sugar and cinnamon, and her potato soup, and her poppy seed roll. I can taste her fried chicken, in my memory-so fresh, that we had fed those chickens that very morning with “scraps” from our breakfast. She would slice a big piece of her homemade bread and then spear it with a long fork. Next, she would open the side of her wood stove, that was lit every morning, except for the hottest summer days when she would begrudgingly cook on her electric stove in the porch. We would take turns toasting our own bread slice over the coals. Perhaps this is the reason why crostini holds magical power for me to this day.

This is my very long and convoluted way of saying-I loved this book!  I can recommend “Out of the Kitchen” for many personal reasons. The book may also be your cuppa tea, that is, if you are a believer in the equation food=love.

Kath’s quote: “When shall we live if not now?” ― M.F.K. Fisher (one Jeannette Ferrary’s dear friends).

bookheart

Love-that is all.

*PS. And yes, I use the space too, to make a small income. I do not have a pension and only a small cache of RSPs so I am trying to create a place that will sustain me as I creep ever closer to “retirement” (another birthday is tomorrow).


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