By Rebecca T. Dickinson
Powerful words come to the page when people describe food.
Whether it is a restaurant reviewer, Giada, or a foodie fan; delicious language boils over through language and fingertips. Cooking is more than a skill I picked up in college. It offers the chance to break from writing and other work.
A duck I made for Labor Day 2011.
Expression of creativity flows in many forms. While I share writing with an audience, work on the stove, crock pot or oven allows me to say, “Thank you,” or “Here is something to help in your time of need.” Most ideas for writing surge to the front of my mind when I flip fried chicken or blueberry pancakes. I consider characters, their lives and what they would eat.
Most importantly, cooking is creation in action.
Sometimes I feel writing might never happen. I get down on myself, but I remember why I am in front of a keyboard or oven.
The partial stuffed bell peppers from Labor Day 2011. Not pictured: the vegetarian partially stuffed bell peppers.
As a little girl, my parents took me out to eat all the time. Instead of hamburgers, I ate a lot of salad. Dad made a salad at home when I was six or seven. Swamped in ranch, I saw a little green and cut up, American slice cheese. I threw it out when he looked away.
My grandmothers began the story of home cooked food early in life. I smelled coffee down the hall of Grandmother Dickinson’s house. She stood over the sink in front of a window overlooking the lake. She sliced a piece of block cheese into mini-squares. She used a pat of butter, pinch of salt, and the mini-squares of cheese for my grits (Southern breakfast food).
I sat across from my grandfather as he drank his coffee. Vitamins and heart healthy cereal with strawberries lay on the table below his newspaper. We sat in the breakfast nook. As he read, I looked across the vast backyard—a forest unto itself—to the dock. Ducks woke and began their morning descent into the water. Some walked back on land near the green wooden swing. I remembered they looked like lights on the water beneath the sunrise.
Later, I’d go out and chase them. There was no Nintendo or Apps to let good Southern cooking ruin me. I ran it off when I threw tennis balls to the neighbor’s cocker spaniels or let my imagination run wild.
My other grandmother and others tell me I’m crazy to make a pie from scratch.
“You can get it from the grocery store.”
But, Grandmother Dickinson could’ve used shredded cheese instead of block for my grits.
Cooking makes me appreciate something I lacked as I grew up. My parents spoiled me rotten and I love them, but work with hands inspires. Cooking also keeps my grandmother’s memory alive. Whatever the reason, the kitchen always takes me back to the lake where my imagination runs free again.