Last night I made traditional Chicken n Dumplings ‘thinking’ I was getting back to basics using a frozen package of prepared dumplings. This is as close as I am ever going to get to authentic dumplings — unless you come over and make them for me!
These dumplings, while authentic were still not as good as my aunt’s.
I asked myself “why was I feeling the need for this dish anyway? I prefer grilled foods and , have never made chicken and dumplings in my life.”
Then I remembered my aunt – Odean – making dumplings. She had just discovered the newest, most clever fast food version of homemade dumplings!
Odean Floyd Reynolds was standing at her stove, pot of chicken broth boiling as she looked over to me, eyes twinkling, telling me how happy, proud to make dumplings not from her tried and true recipe, but from cutting up tortillas and adding them to the broth.
I’m smiling and a little teary-eyed, remembering that precise moment in time. It’s as real to me, being there, in her kitchen on Ridgecrest in Little Rock as if she was actually standing in that kitchen as I write this. You’ve had this feeling before, haven’t you? At least I hope you have. Such warm memories.
Am I wishing to go back in time for her Chicken and Dumplins? No. I’m wishing to go back in time with her and for the warmth of the moment. It’s a joy, tho’ bittersweet as I recall Aunt Odean in her element – cooking for others. I’m loving this sweet moment with her even tho’ she has no idea now. Can’t really call her, it just causes her confusion and that’s not fair. So I capture moments as best I can, significant memories in my life.
I know since my Father, then my Mother’s death, life has never nor will it ever be the same.
When Parilee Croft, Art on the Green’s Artist-in-Residence showed me her commissioned watercolors of her family recipes, I was immediately in love with this work. These commissioned watercolors, albeit the size of a postcard, are a really sweet way to remember another, and a specific moment in one’s life.
My own Mother, beloved as she was did not really love cooking until later in life. She didn’t have time to learn but she had pockets of great moments with recipes we still cherish. Cookbooks by groups and churches help preserve, but it’s the original watercolors, framed and in a place of honor in one’s kitchen that really singles out those special moments. My Mother made the best chili on the planet and I’m still trying to track down that recipe. This is why I think every family needs one original watercolor for each family cook. Preserve the moment — it’s not the recipe that’s so important it’s the moment. Who has given you a moment?
Parilee Croft with her beloved Kep
I do not have the recipe for her my Aunt’s dumplins, and wish I could look at a small watercolor, framed in my kitchen to preserve that moment. But I don’t. I would even be happy with her chocolate cake recipe or the chicken and rice casserole she served at a dinner party when she forgot to debone the chicken! Yes, we laughed and laughed!
Odean and my uncle George had no children, and were always entertaining in their home.
She’ll be making Chicken and Dumplings when He comes . . . .
But this is what I AM doing – Having recipes by close family members preserved with an original watercolor.
Recently another aunt – by my request – sent me several recipes on index cards. For a long time I’ve had the privilege of making her homemade sweet pickles, enjoying the rave reviews as if they were my own! (Who said ”steal from me, steal twice?”)
For Christmas I commissioned a watercolor of the Sweet Pickles to give my aunt. I wanted her to have as part of her original art collection. Now, she can pass along to her son or anyone else in the family. Probably her daughter-in-law, Hannah Robinson who puts Martha Stewart to shame with her Mom and work skills.
As I contemplate which recipe to preserve next, I wonder should it be the disaster German Chocolate Cake I made for my nephew’s birthday that was finally served in parfait glasses? He might remember anyway, but I don’t want to take the chance.
What kitchen memory do you hold dear?