Baking…a family tradition forgotten so easily…with the passing of time and each year. No, I haven’t forgotten how to bake, I’ve just forgotten what baking teaches you and how important it is to practice daily or weekly in your life. I’m sitting up late at home alone, restless because I don’t feel good and can’t fall asleep. I don’t know what made me decide to start baking right now but I just felt the need to focus on something other than feeling icky. The rest of my family is currently in Everett, Massachusetts at the moment visiting our sick cousin. My brother and I were the only two who didn’t end up going to visit with the rest of the family. We couldn’t take off at the drop of a hat, our responsibilities took precedence over our wants. It’s the first time my whole family has been in Boston since my Grandmother was first diagnosed in 2005 with breast cancer and colon cancer.
Our families, “The O’Donnell’s” (Arlington, VA) and “The Riley’s” (Everett, Mass.) made it a tradition, since my birth, to visit each other every year for Thanksgiving. During our visit each year we also took the liberty of celebrating our birthdays and Christmas together as well. When I was little it was one of my favorite concepts because in our family we celebrated Christmas alone three times. Once in Boston normally the Friday after Thanksgiving, then in Virginia on Christmas day, and later on January 6th due to the Irish tradition of “Little Christmas.” My family strongly believed it was important to celebrate those times of the year we didn’t get the chances to be together for. I always admired our tradition for its distinctiveness. I use to look forward to Thanksgiving in Everett, Massachusetts all year round. Christmas is my favorite holiday but I use to anxiously await Thanksgiving because I got to spend time with parts of my family that I didn’t get to see on a regular basis. I also always admired how close both families were from the start, even before I was born.
Each year before we left for our trip for Boston to visit at Thanksgiving my Grandmother who raised me would bake up a storm. She made her famous old-fashioned brownies, carrot cake, and Guru Goodies…which was an interesting twist on a candy bar. These were her signature desserts but she always made a variety of munchies, traditional foods, and goodies for our trip and for our visit. She made it a point to bring everyone we knew up North his or her own batch of her goodies. That was one of the things I loved the most about her, no matter how many people our family knew or had to bake for she never got tired of giving to others and she never gave up on or grew tired of her baking. She had a unique way of making everyone feel special when she handed out his or her care package.
My Grandmother had a gift. She was a magician in the kitchen and her passion definitely showed in her creations and in her traditional family recipes. My Grandmother use to believe that baking or cooking could fix anything. I loved that about her because she taught me that if you’re mad, sad, or even upset, that cooking and baking will always calm you down and make you feel better than when you started. My Grandmother was a firm believer that by cooking or baking for someone you could change someone’s life, if even only one day at a time. She use to always say that a recipe made with love is sometime all anyone really needs.
She was the type of cook who made everything from scratch. When she found a recipe she liked, she would treat it like a problem in life and work on it and perfect it until she was finally happy with it or loved it. She put so much time and effort into her recipes and creations that she always kept them under lock and key. She was a firm believer in family tradition and only believed in passing recipes down to family members or a close loved one who would truly appreciate it, which was very rare. She use to say recipes are a lot like life some are good the way they are, while others you have to play with them or keep trying different ingredients until you find the one that works best for you. When you have achieved the best recipe you add it to your family’s collection and share it with your loved ones.
My Grandmother was a firm believer that cooking and baking with love is what kept our family together and friendship ties strong. She strongly believed that when someone you knew was going through hell, that you should bake or cook for them. She always loved to give nice gifts but believed cooking from the heart was a better gift than money could ever buy. It doesn’t cost much and you will enjoy the process and the end result. The person you cook or bake for will definitely be grateful for your love and kindness. You never know what someone is going through, what battles they’re fighting, or what kind of day they are having until you reach out to them. I guarantee your kindness will change their day and make everything a little easier to bear or handle.
If there is one thing my Grandmother taught me, it’s that traditions are what keeps the family strong and love is what keeps us alive. Always reach out to others because even after time passes, they will always remember your kindness and how you made them feel. They will never forget that no matter how many years pass. True story. I’m in college now and my elementary teachers still talk about my Grandmother’s famous brownies to this day. My Grandmother is the first person to ever teach me how to cook and I fell in love with cooking because she shared her passion for it with me. She put such emphasis on cooking that I regard cooking so highly that I believe it is one of the cornerstones to living a good life. I developed my love for cooking from her lessons and emphasis on tradition throughout the years. One of my favorite things about cooking is when you get the chance to share the experience with a loved one or even teach someone new how to cook, it’s one of the most unforgettable moments you will ever experience together. You can learn a lot from another based on the differences in your homes, traditions, and even cultures. Through cooking you learn to work together, teach eachother, try new things, and grow. Cooking is one of the ways I remember my Grandmother, whether it’s baking something simple or cooking a complicated dish…cooking is when I remember her the strongest. She lives on in many ways in my life and her recipes and the lessons she taught me are just one way of remembering her legacy. I look forward to teaching many more friends and loved ones in the years to come and I looked forward to passing our family’s traditions down to my children one day, God willing.
Time to eat my late dinner tonight. I got off to a late start and decided to tackle making Jerk Chicken. Yummm…. 🙂 Sweet Dreams