Find a photo and write what’s not in the picture
For those of you who are unaware of German cookie culture, this is a picture of Pfeffernüsse, a traditional cookie made at Christmas time. Every year, my sister and I spend two days making Christmas cookies like these, because well, we’re German American women and that is what we do during the holiday season. It’s part of our DNA. I think it might be some unwritten law as well, but don’t quote me on that.
What’s not in this photo is my Mom. She would have been 97 this year, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. She tends to haunt my dreams on a monthly basis; more so now that I’m older. To say I miss her is an understatement. I feel like I’ve misplaced an important part of my heart and its irreplaceable.
My mom taught me to cook from the time I was three. If you believe what my family, co-workers and friends say–my skills in that area are above par. She taught me to separate eggs before I even started Kindergarten and I knew how to properly de-bone a chicken breast before I hit middle school. And Christmas baking required an all hands on deck approach in our house, so I learned all the tricks of the trade for making the best chocolate cookies and how to sub out say, dried apricots in Stollen bread when your local grocery didn’t carry citron.
When my dad died from cancer, my mom went back to work using her skills as a cook and a baker to work in the food industry. She took a job in the local school district so that she could be home when I was out of school each day and during the summer months. What stuns me now, is that after cooking for over 300 people on a daily basis, she would still make amazing meals for us at home each night. Some of my fondest memories are of doing homework in the huge kitchen of my childhood home, as she prepared dinner at night. Or coming home from a friend’s house and opening the back door to the smell of home-made lasagna or sauerbraten. And I spent more than a few hours hunkered down on the couch with her watching cooking shows and making mental notes about techniques. I often joke that the two people who taught me the most about cooking were my childhood mentors–Mom and Julia Child.
The kitchen remains my favorite room of the house. It is my domain and my refuge when life gets a bit overwhelming. But I would gladly share that space with my mom again given the chance. And ever time I knead dough to make Schnecken or make a batch of Spanish rice, or yes make Christmas cookies I hope that she’s looking from afar and is proud.