Over the past several months, my family and I have eaten a variety of meals together, often on the fly, as we clear out the family home so we can sell it. We've eaten takeout Chinese during a yard sale, grabbed burgers and malts at a legendary burger place, shared burritos around the old kitchen table, cobbled together meals of leftovers, and yesterday, orchestrated a family pot-luck Thanksgiving dinner, which was out of this world. So many incredible tastes!
Of course we are reminded of meals of the past shared in a homes we'll never dine in again, together or separately. For decades we siblings have lived separate lives, carving out new traditions and habits; but the prospect of giving up our family home cuts deep and severs an important chord to the past.
We began this daunting and bittersweet task by taking kitchenware, plates, glasses and other sentimental items from our mother's kitchen - long before we held our first yard sale. On a sunny October day earlier this fall, my sister and I sifted through and divvied up old cookbooks and recipe files. (I look forward to a winter of trying classics and old favorites, many of the latter recipes from the past which I hope to update, using fresh ingredients and seasonings other than salt.)
You can tell a lot about someone from their recipes, especially when they write notes in the margins. Our family's culinary history includes such humble dishes as bean burgers (a favorite from our youth), everything-but-the-kitchen-sink homemade pizza (a way to use of leftovers on a Saturday night) and various casseroles, usually made with ground beef and Campbell's cream-of-something soup.
We had plenty of fancy meals, too, and a whole year or two of ethnic meals and mid-winter, living-room-floor picnics. We all remember with great fondness Sunday dinners at Grandma Annie's house, and now we each own a few more bits and pieces from her warm, cozy kitchen and sunny dining room.
Each time a house we loved or lived in leaves the family it is akin to the loss of a relative. But we have survived - as we will this time. But to borrow an expression from M.F.K. Fisher, this is the "Last House."
Its loss will be the most difficult to bear.