Friday, January 10, 2014

Puzzling Out The Past

As I get older, I increasingly recognize myself as a piece in a puzzle. I cannot see the whole picture, but the further I look beyond those pieces immediately connected to me, the more I find I have a clearer idea of who I am. I come from a long line of tradesmen and artisans, from tailors and cobblers, to fishermen, carpenters, and brewers. It is little wonder then, that I am someone who must DO to think. That I am most content when I am working with my hands, and why I cannot tolerate too much time stuck indoors.  

Cooking is a path that I have found to connect me to past. To continue the metaphor, it helps to fill in the margins of what I can already see, and what I know about myself and the world I live in. When I make, for example, my great grandmother’s brown sugar shortbread cookies, I can in some small way sense the link between myself and a woman I was not fortunate enough to meet during her lifetime. The meat pies and stews I crave all winter long are a culmination of my shared Scottish, English, and French Canadian heritage which is also the reason tea resonates so strongly with me. And why I like it, as my great grandfather was fond of saying, “hot, sweet, and strong enough to walk on.” Cooking also connects me to that deep unknowable past, not only my own heritage, but to the heritage we all share. No matter how sophisticated the technique I may use in my kitchen today, cooking is as its essence the alchemy of food and fire. It is the means of caring for, binding, and nourishing your tribe.

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