Many of the great influences to the culinary world began as sidekicks in the kitchen, seemingly since infancy. Perhaps unbeknownst to these sticky-fingered novices, whether from tradition, strong family values, or well-versed from travels, began cataloguing and honing their skills. I, on the other hand, do not have such a nostalgic beginning. My cooking angst began by frying mud pies on the blistering asphalt driveway for dad to come home to after work – who was less than impressed of, what I thought, was a noteworthy accomplishment!
If only men were actually disappointed coming home to a steamy, hot-off-the-press dinner!
Whenever someone brings up cooking, the conversation seems to find its way to grandmothers. And this makes me long for more time, back then. Since my mother had been estranged from her parents since my early adolescence, my grand-parental influence came solely from my dad’s mom and dad. Having adopted my father later in their lives, they were already aging when my siblings and I were young. I have very fond memories of grandma: whether it was taking my sister and I to McDonald’s for a cheeseburger, or a walk around their neighborhood – she was such a socialite, Grandma Georgie, she knew everyone. And although we did spend many Sunday’s having shells and homemade sauce, sadly, I never learned to cook from her. Having come from off-the-boat Italian heritage, looking back, she would have been a wealth of knowledge I now would love to acquire. I was too immature then, though, to appreciate this.
What I never understood was my grandparents’ love of corn flakes topped with orange juice, instead of milk. This still is the biggest conundrum to me, and at seven years old you really think that’s the strangest thing you have ever seen! That, and their ‘magic toaster’.
Pictured above: Grandma Georgie being fabulous through the years (also with Grandpa Frank), and me playing in leaves in her front yard, one of my favorite things!
Always on hand for beverages at Grandma Georgie’s were 7UP and Nestea Iced Tea, both in a can, stored in the garage. In their freezer you could always find a frozen, boxed Sara Lee Lemon Meringue Pie. And across the street at Ray Yager’s house were popsicles stocked in his garage freezer, for us grandkids in the neighborhood. He was a widower who had lived across the street from my grandparents since they moved in, late in the 50s.
In hindsight, these moments were all too fleeting. Both grandparents were aging faster than us kids. It was early into my teen years we lost both, to Alzheimer’s anyway. I wish I had been older, and they younger. I wish I had clung to their stories and appreciated them with more fervor. And I wish you could turn back the hands of time, but then again, who doesn’t?
So my cooking story begins much, much later.
Despite my mom’s specialty of ‘Mac and Beef’ (merely a fancy way of saying ‘I put ground beef in your macaroni and cheese tonight’…Thanks.), she was less than remarkable in the kitchen in my early years (Love you, mom!). I feel like I’ve been playing catch up in the food game, and have essentially taught myself the tricks of the trade – I do tip my hat to Top Chef and Chopped for the motivation to be a go- getter in my own kitchen!
Again, I am Shay and I welcome you to my little corner: where all meals are Shaymelessly prepared for you to confidently serve to your loved ones (or eat it all yourself!). I look forward to sharing my recipes with you and providing some insight and inspiration as to how I came up with each dish!