By Lynn Magdol
So there I was at the stove, stirring a pot of apples and asking myself why. With a couple of loads of laundry waiting to be done, an unmade bed and a long list of other house chores, not to mention many unreturned phone calls and emails, why was I taking the time to make applesauce from scratch, to be put in the freezer for use throughout the winter when making muffins?
After all, I thought, I could buy perfectly good applesauce at the store. I could even buy applesauce muffins already made, almost as good as mine.
And then I thought of the boy at the museum. The previous day, I had gone to a local museum on a day that happened to be a family fun day. Talking to a young boy in the elevator, I asked him if he was enjoying the event. Shyly, he said yes and nothing else.
I turned to my husband and said, he will remember this day. Maybe the next time he has a choice to take an art class, maybe when he has his own kids and thinks of exposing them to art in the same way. Maybe it will just be the memory of a family that cared enough to expose him to an enriching experience.
So as I stirred my pot of apples, I wondered, what was my art museum moment? When was this love of making things from scratch, although the more time-consuming option, born in my memory? Not just the applesauce that I make every year in October, but also the tomato sauce, pumpkin and pesto that fill my freezer with good things to bring some essences of summer and fall into winter.
My first thought was of Fanny, a country friend of my city-born-and-bred grandmother’s, who ran a resort in the Catskills. When I was about 10, Grandma took me with her from Brooklyn to Fanny’s place for a long weekend. I’m guessing it was Columbus Day weekend, before Thanksgiving.
During that visit, I sat in the kitchen and watched Fanny cook apples and can them for use during the coming winter. I have other memories of Fanny’s place during the summers, going there with my parents and brother. We hunted for berries of all kinds: I specifically remember elderberries, blackberries, raspberries and black raspberries.
Coming back to the main house all scratched up and tired, we turned over our bounty to Fanny for her wonderful pies and jams that we knew would be enjoyed by her many guests.
Like the boy in the museum, I never dreamed of the impact of these few forays out of the city for the far-distant future. At different times in my life, I have loved growing my own vegetables, freezing summer foods for winter use, canning jams and relishes, drying herbs and making pickles.
I cook meals from scratch, something I took for granted until I entered the world of middle-class professional women who fall back on time-saving food prepared by others in the interest of furthering their careers. My idea of real food, and good food, comes from the unexpected exposure this city kid had on a few visits to the country.
I guess the message here is that a life-changing experience can sneak up on you. You never know when a casual event will embed itself in your brain and your being. It may not show up tomorrow or next year, but over a lifetime, it can manifest in unexpected ways. I can’t wait for the next one to put in an appearance.
Lynn Magdol, of Buffalo, is happily retired, giving her more time to spend in the kitchen stirring up memories.