This just looks like an empty bowl to you, but it’s so much more than that to me.
When I pull this bowl out of my kitchen cabinet, I can smell the butter melting over my mom’s homemade mashed potatoes. I can see the steam rising from her home-canned green beans. I can almost taste her dumplings.
Almost everything my mom cooked was made from scratch and created with love. She seemed to have a schedule in her meal planning. There was meatloaf night, spaghetti night, fried pork chop night. Those meals always included plenty of side dishes, hot breads, and desserts.
Sunday dinners were my favorite. We would come home from church, change out of our dress clothes and wait as patiently as we could while my mom tied an apron around her waist and set about cooking up a fried chicken dinner. I have yet to find a piece of fried chicken as good as my mom’s.
My sister and I would help set the dining room table, which was only used on Sundays and special occasions, while my mom prepared seemingly endless homemade dishes such as fresh-off-the-cob creamed corn, mac and cheese, her famous green beans, and piping hot bread while the chicken was frying in the cast-iron skillet. She always added the “extra trimmings,” as well, including homemade brine pickles, fresh tomatoes or jello salad. Dessert was something she made the night before. It might be a German Chocolate cake, orange cake with caramel coconut icing, cherry or apple cobbler, lemon cheesecake, jam cake, or my dad’s favorite – yellow cake with chocolate icing, always with ice cream on the side.
The kitchen was incredibly tiny in my childhood home. I never noticed that when I was little but, after I became an adult, I often wondered how on earth my mom ever cooked so much food in such a small space, and all of it be piping hot when we sat down to eat.
It was only after I started preparing large meals for my ever-growing family that I realized how much hard work went into those Sunday dinners that my mom made for us each week. Not only was her space limited, but she did not have a microwave until I was an adult, and she never owned a dishwasher. Just as well, as she probably wouldn’t have trusted it to get her dishes as clean as she got them with her plain, old-fashioned “elbow grease.”
She, somehow, managed to pull it off, and this bowl was always on the table, filled with something wonderful and delicious.
Despite the amount of work that went into each meal, I know she loved doing it. I can still hear her humming an old gospel song to herself while she cooked.
After my parents passed on, my siblings and I took turns selecting items in their home that we wanted to keep. This bowl was one of my first choices. Sure, there were other things I could have chosen that held more monetary value, but the memories this bowl held for me were priceless.
My family will be coming over for dinner this weekend. I will prepare a huge meal for them, complete with lots of vegetables, salads, and something special for dessert. At some point, I will pull this bowl out of my cabinet to fill with mashed potatoes, or green beans, or fresh fruit salad, and a smile will cross my face as I hear my mom humming.
You can’t put a price tag on that.