It’s amazing how inanimate objects can take on life as you remember who used them before, who gave them to you, their storied background. I’m not talking about what would be considered heirlooms. For instance, Grandma’s biscuit mixing pan.
It’s just a simple aluminum pan with a zillion crinkles as if it’s been through a few battles. The crinkles remind me of sweet Grandma Sue Mote’s softly wrinkled face. She was my husband’s grandmother. I didn’t know her until I became part of his family and, by then, Grandma’s home was a gathering place for her six children and dozens of grandchildren and great grandchildren. I only remember seeing her use this little pan a time or two but I can imagine her now pinching a biscuit size bit of dough from this pan, patting it out in her hand and adding it to others ready to bake.
When Grandma died and her girls distributed her things, I was very honored to receive the biscuit pan. It brings back memories of her simple kitchen, her hand sewn curtains and aprons, the smell of chicken and dumplings on the stove, the happy crowd of cousins that spilled out into her carport and the yard. She was never prouder than when everyone came for her birthday or at Christmas.
I admit I no longer use this little pan to mix biscuit dough in, even when I rarely make biscuits. But I do use it for mealing a mess of catfish to fry or I slice okra into it. And when I do, I remember Grandma Sue, her sweet smile, her perfectly white hair and her joy in simple pleasures like cooking for her family.
Then there are those knives with a history. You probably have some like that too. For instance, the shiny little paring knife my mother gave me when she visited one time. She sat down to cut apples for me and was very displeased with the knife I produced for her to use. Later in the day she told me we had to go to the store and, once there, she chose this sharp dependable paring knife that, after thirty years, is still doing its job. “Every cook has to have a good knife,” she said.
Another knife is known by the whole family as “the good knife.” It is a chunky big wooden handled knife which keeps a good edge, and is just right for halving a head of cabbage or carving a roasted turkey. I don’t usually tell anyone how we acquired this knife. They might think it could never have been sterilized enough to forget its first life. But it was my husband’s necropsy knife when he was in veterinary school. Yes, it cut up some pretty gross stuff, I know. It was his own personal necropsy knife purchased at a dear price. His name is etched into the blade. That’s how we’ve found it numerous times after it was lost at the church, on a fishing trip, at family gatherings. When cutting a watermelon or slicing ham, that is the knife of choice.
But I have a favorite new knife as well. My sister Suzanne and her husband Bill gave me a really sweet little paring knife bought in Amish country. It will peel, slice, chop, shred just about anything. I treasure it and keep it in its very own slot.
One of my favorite things is an oblong shallow wooden bowl used by my mother. Somehow, out of a family of ten, I became the new owner. It’s too cracked and worn now for me to use but I can enjoy it displaying decorative fruit or other pretty things. I remember Mamma chopping cabbage for kraut in it (no wonder it’s so scarred!), mixing bread, or making potato salad. I can almost taste the bread she cooked on a flat griddle on her woodburning stove. That flat bread was a standby for her when the day suddenly arrived at suppertime and she had so many mouths to feed quickly. And oh, how good, slathered with her freshly churned butter!
I have a cooking fork acquired from a sister-in-law’s things, a wonderful long heavy stainless steel spoon perfect for stirring jelly given to me by my daughter Julie for Christmas one year, an ice cream scoop that is the best, given to me by my son Will and his wife Christi. A scratched pitiful looking cutting board reminds me of when we first moved to Cairo and the Welcome Wagon lady came calling. She was as friendly as her title indicated and she gave us a bag of items from downtown merchants. This cutting board from Wight Hardware ( a store long since gone) has been so serviceable and has long outlasted all the other gifts.
These are not the things I’d grab if the house were burning down. I’d grab my Bible and my purse. But I sure would miss these simple handy time-proven objects that remind me of many dear folk.