kitchen-craft

Good morning and isn’t the sunshine and cool breeze lovely? I am back in New England, where I feel certain I belong. I love our Georgia place but it isn’t home (yet), maybe someday. But here in New England are all my people, and all my things, and the air and insects and seasons and familiarity that I do my best breathing, enjoying, and living.

The month and more of Georgia did wonders to my nervous system and I feel calm and peaceful. Rather than doing life at a break-neck speed out of endless adrenaline, I almost feel “too slow” and my brain feels forgetful. I’m used to it firing off information and “things to remember” nonstop, instead, it feels empty in spots. Not to worry, I’m sure this Shanda is just as entertaining as the other one. I feel a shift has occurred, a changing of life that happens to all of us, and it is good. The fundamental things are the same; love of family, a desire to know and love God, celebrating life in all its messy beauty, and a love for home (this one, and the one to come). Just a step down from those things are the primary loves of my life; words written and read, nature, photography, animals, gardening, and homemaking, walking, laughing, learning, growing……..

I’m currently reading a Fannie Flagg book titled Standing in the Rainbow and I came across this quote and wanted to share it here;

“‘ You know, so many of you have written in over the years and asked me what is the best thing to do for a blue mood…….and asked if I have ever been in a blue mood, and yes, you can be sure I have. I can only tell what helps me and that is baking. I can’t tell you how many cakes I have sifted, how many cake pans I have greased, all because there is something about baking a cake that gets me out of a mood, and so I’ll just pass that on for what it’s worth.'”

Standing in the Rainbow, page 268

When I read this I thought of my mom and aunts and grandma and cousins and siblings and myself…..and understood again so clearly how much kitchen-craft serves a purpose not just for the end result, but in the very process of the work, how satisfying it is to make dishes and meals, desserts of all kinds, and even the cleaning up part is satisfying. I want to take pride in my kitchen and making it sparkle. It will always be used and a place to create.

So when we got home on Friday it made perfect sense that on Saturday I made pancakes for Caleb. Granted, it didn’t make sense as to why the batter tasted so salty, but I kept on and was quite proud of the (very very) fluffy stack of pancakes I served up. Turns out the flour I used was self-rising and I didn’t know it. It was a new bag that I opened without looking first, and as I never buy self-rising I didn’t suspect a thing. In other words, these particular pancakes had twice as much baking powder and salt in them. They got eaten, so I guess they were edible enough…….butter and syrup do wonders.

I was very eager to dig around in the garden. This spring I had a bag of grocery-store potatoes that had all sprouted so energetically (so many sprouts, making the potato itself unrecognizable) that I decided to plant them. This was a first for me. My mom guided me through the basics of tending them (now I know why gardeners are always hoeing) and as soon as I could (saturday morning AFTER the pancakes were made) I went outside to see if it really worked; and it did! I’m a potato farmer on a very small scale! I dug up three hills and found about 10 potatoes, and I have three more hills to dig when I’m ready. I also pulled some carrots, a couple beets, and onion, and picked yellow squash and cucumber.

Meanwhile, my husband was busy taking out our old dishwashers and installing these two new kitchen aid dishwashers…….we were both working so hard in the kitchen, we kept bumping into each other as Alexa played our favorite songs. Quite romantic. Since he was working so hard and did such an excellent job, naturally I felt compelled to make ……… meatballs! This was next on the kitchen-craft list of things to make.

We ate our meatballs and sauce (all homemade with tender loving care) out on the porch that evening. (by the way, when making sauce, I only ever use San Marzano canned tomatoes, I have found that they are my favorite by far.)

Cucumber salad, with my own garden onion and cucumbers.

On Sunday, Jacob, Brittnee, Sierra, and Mitchell came over for an afternoon steak cook-out. Jacob grilled the steaks and I prepared the side dishes.

“What am I going to do with all that self-rising flour?” I asked myself, and then baked this very simple cake. It’s closely related to the peach coffee cake I make all the time on Jekyll so I went ahead and made the topping for that recipe (fruit, & brown sugar mixed w/butter). However, this cake fluffed up so much as it baked that it baked AROUND and OVER the topping. (Wow self-rising flour takes itself very seriously!) Therefore, when Sarah looked at it and begged, “Mom, can you please not put sugar on top of this one, pleeeeeeeeeese?” I could, in all honesty, say “no”. What she didn’t know was it was all on the bottom.

I take great joy in making baked beans from scratch. There is something magical about them, a humble package of hard, dried beans developing into a pot of melt-in-your-mouth flavor. I used a basic recipe and then went from there, soaking and simmering and baking, stirring, tasting, adding this and that, for hours and hours until they were perfection. And thank goodness everyone else liked them, too.

While roasting marshmallows outside last night a few hours after our big meal, I let out such a loud toot that Mitchell said in surprise to Jacob, “Was that your MOM? I had no idea Moms could even DO that, I’ve NEVER heard my mom do that!” and later on, when he left he said he felt like he was part of the family.

This is just some of what kitchens can do!