Sunday, November 4, 2007

Walking In Your Footsteps...

...and trying not to trip in your very big shoes.

I would never dream of flattering myself by believing I could ever take my Grandmother's place in this world since her departure from it. However, since she left us about a year and a half ago, there are certain things that I feel compelled to do, have strong feelings about or have experienced that have the very distinctive "Esther Rueck" brand upon them. I sense her presence in a very tangible way when I do these things. It feels very right and like a natural progression for me to attempt to emulate her in their practice. As though the "torch has been passed." (This feeling is not diminished by the fact that I am her namesake, Esther being my middle name.)

Aside from when I'm brushing my teeth, a time when I am most aware of her is when I bake bread. Gran and I had sooo very many conversations about baking, but we never really got to do it together when I was old enough to actually know a little about what I was doing. We did lots of theorizing and comparing notes verbally though. So now since her departure, it doesn't matter what kind of bread I'm making, she's there with me.

That being said, you might imagine how much it meant to me when, upon pulling the new coffee maker my folks gave us from its box, I noticed an old yellow recipe card laying face down in the bottom of it. Since the box had never been opened, for a split second I thought Grannee had been up to her tricks again and miraculously dropped it in there for me to find... Upon an excited call to my mom, however, I learned that she had been startled to discover Grannee's Rye Bread recipe in an old canister she was about to give away...
*gasp!* that was close! ... and had wedged it under the lid of the box as a surprise.

She may as well have sent me a Portkey* to my Grannee's kitchen. I was giddy with excitement, but wanted to wait until I could give my full attention and focused intention on making this special, magical recipe for which my Grandmother was renowned. It was like no other bread you could get anywhere. Grandad always said it was better than cake... and he was right.

This bread was something much more than the sum of its ingredients. For her, it was a meditation. A profound demonstration of love for her family and guests... and you could taste it. We begged for this bread. No one ever felt the least bit gypped if they got it for Christmas in stead of some *thing*.

Everything that left her hands was completely imbued with love and intention. To both of my Grandparents, if anything was worth doing it was worth doing well and she had refined this basic human nourishment and item of sacrament to an art form... and the rest of us have never been able to duplicate it to her level of mastery.

It was her own special kind of magic.

This time, when I set out to make my attempt at Her Rye Bread, it wasn't with a recipe dictated over the phone and written in distracted haste, but with her very own card. Written in her own elegant hand. There are no instructions, just measurements of ingredients, temperature and cooking time. This card served only to jog her memory of the details of a process she could do in her sleep... and often did once she became too frail to wrangle heavy, awkward dough.

When she wrote this recipe down, her penmanship was still pristine, not ravaged by age and weariness. She was vibrant and brimming with passion, generosity and grace. I could feel her vivacity resonate as I carefully held this precious artifact as I read it, intense thoughts of her washing over me as I assembled the ingredients. I felt her standing right next to me and she was as excited as I was that we were *finally* getting to bake together. I couldn't stop myself from smiling and even let a little laugh escape my lips at how much fun we were having, the two of us.

As I prepared the dough, I could hear in my head little comments she had made to me over the years about how the dough should look or the fact that it's pretty sticky. I made only the tiniest adjustments based on my particular circumstances. Alterations with which I felt she would agree.
Though there is no way I would ever make notations on the recipe card. I'll keep those notes in my head for now.

I was so excited to give my little family a taste of Grannee's Rye Bread and every aspect of what that means. Yes, it's amazing in flavor and texture, very nutritious and its aroma is what I think Heaven must smell like, but mostly what I want them to taste is my intention, my meditation of love and the same blessing that Grannee put into everything she fed us.

The bread I made doesn't taste *exactly* like Grannee's but it's very, very close. I have only my hands, pans and slightly different ingredients to work with so, I guess it's becoming My Rye Bread now... but I will always bake it (and enjoy that first, warm heal) with Grannee.

* For you non-Harry Potter readers: a Portkey is an enchanted object, often a piece of supposedly worthless junk, which when touched will transport a person to a preprogrammed location.


Anonymous said...

Dear Daughter. What a beautiful tribute to your Grannee. (For those of you who don't know...that's the way my mother spelled "Grannee") Anyway, upon seeing your last picture of the bread...I also noticed the bowls in the background which were also the very bowls she made that bread in. I thought it great that even they were in the picture. I can still see her hands kneeding that bread. And making it all by hand until her arms got weak from a radical mastectomy and didn't have muscles in that right arm. It was then that Grandaddy bought her the big Kitchen Aide mixer to make it easier for her. She even wore the first one out. And even after he passed away, we were called by Ace Hardware to come pick up a new "claw" that he had ordered for her. (They BOTH have their way of popping in on us from time to time.) Such sweet wonderful memories we have.
Hugs to you for your amazing ability to put them into words.
Love you for that.
Your Mom
PS. Grandaddy would agree with one of his big approving smiles.

Wendy said...

Angeleen, how beautiful. I have tears in my eyes.

And your mom's comment about the bowls reminds me of a recipe book that we created in Kindergarten. They asked a bunch of five year olds to dictate their favorite recipe. Most kids at that age have no idea of timing or temperature (cook for 2 minutes at 1000 degrees, that type of thing), but many of them mentioned things like "get out the big yellow bowl". I loved that somehow. Like if you didn't mix it in the yellow bowl, it wouldn't work.

Lisa said...

What a beautiful tribute to your Grannee. She must have been a wonderful lady.

Angelina said...

Is there not a single member of your family who was mean?

That was a lovely tribute. I am often jealous of your family solidarity. Lucky lady!

Silverback said...

Me too fish - this post is just so beautiful. I was all weepy anmd stuff.