I come from a long line of amazing chefs. Yes, I used the term chef because that is exactly who they were. They cooked for the entire neighborhood daily. That sounds like a restaurant with customers to me! The difference is, it was a labor of love, and the compensation was watching others get full on the love being served up. This is an art, a ministry, a calling. When you grow up in something so special it is easy to gloss over the gift. Simply put, I just thought this is what we do. We throw down in the kitchen. Reflecting as an adult verse looking through child eyes tells a different story.
The term to describe cooks like Nana Edie are dump cooks. I proudly take on that title. There are no measurements and no directions. You know how much or how little spice and cooking time by feel, taste, and look. Though I am classically trained, I do not stray away from my roots. It is my inspiration. Nana Edie transformed many atmospheres making magic happen in the kitchen. A meal with love as the star ingredient is food for the soul. This skillful art made her a community celebrity. Everyone knew about Ms. Edie’s cooking. Walking into her kitchen was an experience from the moment you opened the door. The whiff of something delicious lured you in like a character in a cartoon. She had squinty eyes, two plaits, and was short in stature, but a giant in the category of love. I always felt at home in her kitchen. No one was a stranger to her. Everyone was family. She went by Ms. Edie, Big Edie, Nanny, and Nana Edie (my term of endearment for her). Everyone needs a Nana Edie. She just made everything better, and I attribute it all to her table.
As a wife, mother, and mom mom it is my joy to love on my family like Nana Edie loved on her family. My personal love offering is through food. I know if I can get someone to my table there is a high probability, they will not leave the same way they came. Great food and meaningful conversation nourish the soul. Now I must tell you, once you set this type of standard, build this type of table the expectations are high. It is an honor to carry forward this family heirloom and continue to pass it along from generation to generation. It provides the priceless opportunity of introducing today’s generation to their ancestors. I am excited to exclaim all five of my children got the gift! Makes this mama so proud and heart smile. It will not stop there. I get my grandbabies in the kitchen as often as I can, teaching and allowing them to safely explore cooking in mom mom’s kitchen. Sometimes this generates sweet memories of my cousins, my Nana Edie, and me cooking together.
It is my responsibility to share my Nana Edie, and all the amazing cooks of my family, through every dish served up. My children may have never meet some of my relatives, but as I draw inspiration from them, they come alive in my cooking with their love seasoning every pot. This is what legacy-inspired cooking is all about! This is powerful illustration of the power of the table highlighting the power of positive memories of the past revealing the gifts that have been in us all along.