What inspires you? That thing that you do and with in seconds you feel as though you breathe easier, your heart feels lighter, your mind feels clear.........
Whatever it is, it's a true gift. One that you should try to do more of in your life. For me? that is being in the kitchen and using my creativity to create dishes that hopefully my family and friends will love. I love the traditions that can stem from what I love doing.
I spent many days as a child, with my mom learning, helping, laughing in our kitchen at home. I was blessed early on to be able to spend as much time as I did with my grandmother. There were times when I would spend weeks with her during the summer when my parents went on vacation. I remember asking my grandma (whom I wanted to be just like) what time she would be getting up in the morning. She would tell me 3:00 am and I would say " well get me up with you, Ill go to work with you and help" That following morning, I remember waking up and hearing her downstairs moving around and then the door closing. I looked out the window of my bedroom and saw her walking up to the restaurant, it was still dark outside, but I knew it was her. Under the street light I could see a dark figure walking with one hand on a wagon pulling it behind her. It was her. She always took the wagon with her, carrying things she would need for the day. You see, in all my grandmas years, she never had a drivers licence. My grandpa always drove her where ever she needed to go. Why didn't he take her up to work in the mornings? I laugh as I type this because my grandma was also very independent. If it was in her power to do it herself? She did it. The restaurant or "cafe" as they called it, was only two blocks from her home. So it wasn't to far of a walk for her.
I remember that morning clearly. I jumped out of bed and tossed on my clothes, shoes and passed on the rest of the morning rituals like brushing my hair, teeth or even pausing to use the bathroom... and sprinted out of the house. I caught up with her quickly and it was funny to see the expression on her face when she noticed the ease at which the wagon became as she pushed it. I looked up at her and said "you let me oversleep, and I gotta work today!'' She laughed and said " pull this wagon and lets get moving then". That wagon was heavy to pull. But I didn't say anything about the weight of it. If she could do it, so could I.
This was exactly like my chair. Only mine wasnt red.
At her cafe, I stood there while she flipped on several ovens, lights, adjusted the heater, and got down several items and then she passed me this old chair. It was my favorite chair. And for years, I thought it was specially made just for me. It was a bar stool looking chair. Made of metal, with a flower patterned vinyl back rest and seat. Directly under that seat was all of this stuff, and at first I thought it was the oddest looking place to store stuff. Then my grandmas pulled all that stuff out. It cascaded down into two little steps. I loved it! She pulled it up to the counter and let me crawl up there to sit. I watched as she made her coffee and took her first sip. And she asked me if I wanted some. I said yes eagerly and she poured me a half cup full. That mug ended up being mine over the years. It was brown on the outside, and nearly the same on the inside from years of coffee stains. But I loved it, almost as much as the chair. She watched me as I took my first couple of sips. Apparently she could read my expression because she asked me if I liked it. I said "yes" and not very convincingly because she poured in a bit of milk, and a little bit of sugar and stirred it up for me. I ended up being much better. It was also our secrete because my mom wouldn't want me drinking coffee so young. Grandpa said it would stunt my growth. :)
I noticed early on that my grandmother talked less than my mom in the kitchen. Watching her work in the kitchen was mesmerizing. She was very precise and fluid in her motions. I am sure this came from years of practice and knowing the next step long before that step came. She rarely used a cookbook, I am sure that those recipes were long burned into her memory. Only occasionally did I ask questions. And it was usually "why do you roll it like that?" "why do you use that tool" and she would answer me and then go back to her work. Our conversations were not many. But I learned alot. She let me help where I could. And there was always samples. The air in her cafe was like something magical. Close your eyes and imagine, apple, blueberry, pumpkin, peach, and cherry pies, kringla, caramel pecan rolls, cinnamon rolls, muffins, cookies, and then top that off with oodles of breads, dinner rolls, and biscuits. Pots of simmering stew, chicken dumplings, mashed potatoes, sausage gravy, and much more...all filling the air in this 6 room cafe.
This is not her kitchen. But this is as close I could get to what her refridgerator looked like. Some of the doors to the fridge had glass so you could see in. Others had mirrors on them.
It felt like a dream when she would hand me the cafe keys. I loved being the one to go to the front of the cafe and use the keys to open the door. My job was not just to unlock, but to make sure the front entry was swept off and clear, the open/close sign was turned, the front light was turned on, and that the front dining section was all ready to go. This was grandpas job. He would come up to the cafe later in the morning and make sure that the tables were set and the display cases were full of desserts and the daily menu board was correctly updated. Grandma used to say that he needed to be double checked so that he didn't forget anything. Grandpa used to say that grandma was just too picky. I wouldn't really truly understand this until I got older and married myself. :)
These are her dishes that she used in her ice cream counter.
It wasn't long before the bell over the door would ring and you could hear the stomp of shoes as the farmers started coming in for their breakfast. "Good Morning Peg" or "Good Morning John." were the typical greetings after they found their favorite tables. Many of them would come in a sit together like one big family, talking about their mornings out in the fields, their crops, complaining about too much or too little rain. I used to get to put coffee on the tables for them. You know...those white Thermos's that you fill up with coffee and leave so the customers can use as much as they'd like. I would blush all morning long I tell ya. Those big men would scootch over when Id say "excuse me, I have coffee" and they'd say stuff like "well what do we have here... a little Peg with long blonde hair" or "You know John, she makes better coffee than you do, you should have her working here more often". And they would curse too. And then get all quiet and check to see if I was around where I could hear. My grandpa and grandma would let me do just as much as I could do around there. And I was ever so eager to do it too. I loved it. And often felt like it was my own place.
The bar stools that lined the main counter where customers could eat. May would I get chewed out all of the time for spinning around and around on these babies! HAHAHAH
Today, they "cafe" still stands. The last time I was there, was when my grandma died. The then owner, who knew my grandma and grandpa from when he was little, offered to have her luncheon there after her funeral. After all, she loved that place so much. It's changed alot since I was little. But it makes me happy to see that it still stands...
Thank you so much for everything grandpa and grandma. People ask me today, where I get the drive, the inspiration, the energy to do the things that I do.... this is where it all began....