Ever since my auntie died, I’ve been obsessed with my family’s recipes.
Maybe two days after she passed, I tossed my entire apartment, dumping out every drawer and file, searching for the scrap of paper I’d scribbled her gumbo recipe on one random afternoon I’d called her to ask her for the steps.
After every place I couldn’t find it, I lost it a little more, sure I’d tossed it in a fit of compulsive cleaning, arrogantly assuming I could call her and get it again. When the last place it should have been was turned upside down, I cried myself onto my kitchen floor, chastising myself for being so stupid, for throwing it away, for throwing her away, so carelessly.
I hate that I never learned to bake my grandmother’s peach cobbler. I can’t remember it enough to recreate it, just standing in the kitchen while she made it, the yellow painted walls sweating in the heat of her old oven. I remember flour on my nose, and dipping my tiny fingers into her mixing bowls. I remember the way the crust seemed to disintegrate in my mouth, the peaches ripe and sticky sweet. No one in the family makes it, and that little piece of family history died with her.
And so, when I found myself sitting at a Formica kitchen table emblazoned with yellow flowers I hadn’t sat at in 25 years, in a town everyone is too fancy to call Scottdale anymore, I listened to how to perfect my pound cake. How to get the Crisco and butter in perfect balance, how to perfectly brown the outside while keeping the inside moist. I furiously scribbled notes in my mind, listening to the instructions peppered in with anecdotes about church and community and civil rights.
I found my auntie’s recipe. And one day I’ll get up the nerve to cook it for the people I love, sharing her with them. I’ll keep trying at my grandma’s peach cobbler, until it’s perfect. Along the way I’ll cook the things I love, the things I’ve created on my own and the things I picked up from them somehow without ever being taught.
I cook their recipes. I sing their name.