Monday, August 27, 2012

In the Kitchen

When I was growing up, the homes on our block were fairly simple. We had a kitchen, bedrooms, bathroom and living room. There were no sun rooms, dens, powder rooms, TV rooms, or "great" rooms with glass-walled fireplaces. When I think of those days, I tend to picture myself in the kitchen. Until we got our first RCA 13" black and white television, the living room was usually reserved for company, so the kitchen is where we spent most of our time. It was where the family gathered to eat, play games, do homework or just talk. I have already written a little about our kitchen in "The Power of Formica". but every once in a while, I see on image that takes me back to that place and time.

Because money was tight, Mom found ways to cut a corner when she could. Peanut butter and Welch's grape jelly came in glass jars that were slightly bowed at the bottom. After these were empty and washed out, they became our drinking glasses. They were perfectly functional and didn't cost a penny. If you broke one, you just ate more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until the set of glasses was complete again. The earlier jars were plain, but as advertisers wised up, they began putting pictures of favorite cartoon characters on the jars so that kids would bug their parents to buy a particular brand. Interestingly enough, a set of 6 of these "retro" glasses are now being sold on eBay for $16.99. 

If you look in the average kitchen today you will see an array of pots designed for every possible cooking chore. My mother had a motley collection of pots and pans that may not have been fancy, but in them she cooked the most fabulous dinners. The one I remember best was a black, cast-iron frying pan that weighed as much as a small car. This pan was dear to me because in it Mom made the best bacon and eggs ever. She would cook the bacon first until it was crispy but not dry. Then she used some of the bacon grease to fry the eggs, perfect, sunny side up eggs that were brown around the edges with no white ick around the yokes. Wonder bread toast completed the meal all washed down with Maxwell House coffee. 

Breakfast was and still is my favorite meal of the day. I love cereal, maybe because cereal makers were sponsors for a lot of kids' TV shows back then. I would sit at the table with a big bowl of Cheerios or Wheaties. Into it I would slice a banana into exactly ten pieces (a quirk that persists to this day), pour in the milk out of a glass bottle, and diligently read whatever was on the back of the cereal box. At some point, cereal makers introduced smaller, single serving sizes of their different brands in a variety pack. The exciting feature of these little boxes was that you could make a slit down the perforated length of the box and pour the milk directly into the box...what a concept! No room for a banana though.

I can't imagine the number of hours I spent at our Formica and chrome kitchen table with the red and white checked oilskin tablecloth. It was always warm and cozy there, especially on winter mornings when the smell of coffee percolating in the old fashioned coffee pot wafted up the stairs and helped get us out of bed to start the day. It never occurred to me that the coffee wouldn't get put on the stove unless Mom got up to do it. My eggs never would have been made if she hadn't dragged out the black frying pan and cooked them. The Kellogg's Sugar Corn Pops would not have been on the shelf if Mom hadn't bought and put them there. The kitchen was her domain where she worked hard to nurture all of us. Thanks Fran for all you did.


Children's Craniofacial Association

1 comment:

Joseph Del Broccolo said...

It's funny how much alike life was for a kids growing up in Brooklyn! We had a cast iron stove in our kitchen, that in the winter was hot, as we put orange peels on it and they roasted, permeating throughout the apartment, leaving an incredible aroma!