For several years, I considered writing a blog called “What Would Grandma Do?” In our striving for a life of less consumption, less waste, less harm to the planet, I realized that my grandmother often made do: creatively solving needs for new clothing by sewing and mending; making her own cleaning solutions; growing, canning, and making food to feed large numbers of visitors; re-using everything she could; making gifts designed to please the recipients; and buying as little as possible. She was a wonderful role model, providing hundreds of lessons and examples. I’m grateful for my grandmother for many reasons, but her role as chatelaine of her two-bedroom, one-bath manor guides me now. (Photo: my grandmother, my mother, my great-grandmother, and me)
I’ve written before that my grandmother was a wonderful cook. One of her specialties was peach pie. She left us without a recipe. When I asked her to write it down, she was reluctant. I don’t know why. I would watch her make it, using pinches and handfuls to measure. She used tapioca to thicken the sauce, nutmeg, and she cut fresh peaches. I’ve hunted for a recipe that is similar. I have been unable to replicate her pie. Do you have a beloved food that you’ve been hunting elusively? I’m grateful to people who write down their recipes for posterity.
Yesterday, Steve and I sat down with our newly washed collection of dish towels, deciding it was time to cull those that are too thin to be effective after decades of use. We don’t use a dishwasher, so our dish towels are crucial kitchen equipment, as they were for generations before us. The aspect for which I’m grateful is that so many women chose to display their embroidery talents by telling stories with these towels, thereby turning them into art. We have towels stitched by my mother, my grandmother, and two aunts. Each time we use them, we feel that connection. Quite often, the stories they tell are funny: vegetable musicians, naughty kittens, and Mother Goose, as well as a set that depicts dishes in the colors of the pottery Steve and I collected when we were first married. Those that we set aside because they no longer have a practical use will become part of a fabric art project I have in mind … their stories will stay with us.