Schmida was an immigrant. Jewish. German. A Holocaust survivor. She spoke Yiddish and fed the neighborhood children alongside her own (the way mothers everywhere do.) When one of those children asked her to teach him, she willingly and enthusiastically handed down a recipe that he would later use to win the baking competition at the county fair. A recipe he would later hand down to me. —Cherity Cook
As Cherity makes a special birthday cake for her dad, she can’t help but remember how much immigration has been mixed into our stories.
I recently read an NPR article that explored the American relationship with meat consumption. According to the article, many say that they want to eat less meat–largely due to health concerns–but actual habits are slow to change.
Jeremiah and I are vegetarian; we have been for a while. (Actually, I’m a pescetarian; he’s a vegetarian. I still occasionally eat fish.) For us, it was mostly an ethical decision (driven by the fact that we have made friends with all the freaking farm animals). For others, its a decision driven by environmental factors or health concerns.
I thought the article was interesting; for me, it proved a point I have long suspected. That is, sounding the alarms against meat consumption doesn’t do that much good on it’s own. Rather than spur actual change, they just make people consider the fact that they should maybe think about changing…and then they don’t.
Honestly, I’m not the sort to just go around sounding those alarms. If you are interested in why I eat this way, I’ll happily discuss it. I may even write about it, but I’m not a “belligerent vegetarian.” I’m not going to argue with you about it. I’m not going to shame or guilt trip you. (In fact, in my experience, it generally works the other way around; there are meat eaters who get genuinely ANGRY with me when they find out I don’t eat meat. I still don’t understand that.)
Personally, I think that we’re going about this all wrong anyway. Vegetarianism (even on a “one meal a week” basis) is still being framed as a sacrifice, and, for the majority, that’s never going to fly. If it’s going to be embraced, people have to see how positive it can be for them: the positive outcome on their pocketbook, waistline, and health are good places to start.
Our first night back at the ranch, neither Jeremiah nor I got very much sleep. The house noises were all wrong; the room was chilly; our house critters were (and still are) staying with my dad at our old place. I woke up nearly hourly, and I felt no desire to climb out of bed in the morning, but I did. That first full day, Jeremiah and I moved through the house and barn and pastures like turtles stuck in molasses in December.
The second night at the ranch I felt terribly exhausted but still couldn’t sleep. I laid in bed next to my husband trying to will myself to feel at ease. I tossed and turned, hoping that some bodily position would magically fix my nerves. Jeremiah, kept awake by my constant motion, eventually spoke.
“Something wrong honey?”
Words exploded rapid fire. “The house noises are all wrong, and I’m so tired, and I can’t sleep. My brain won’t shut off.”
“Me either. This just isn’t home yet.”
And that was it. The floodgates opened, and I started to sob. Through those deep breathes in between, I responded.
“It’s not home! I miss home.”
Desperately homesick in my own bed, I cried myself to sleep, Jeremiah cuddled next to me, rubbing my back and telling me that he wished he could make it ok.
I felt somewhat better the next morning. (It’s amazing how well tears work to dissolve nervous and negative energy.) The house didn’t magically feel like home, but somehow that’s easier to deal with when the sun is up. And it wasn’t that I regretted our decision to move here, not for a second, but I felt like we built home in that little, drafty, near 100 year old house in the Heights. And this big old farm house was starting over from scratch with just as many new projects to start as we had completed.
My mother-in-law came over that morning, and she helped me clean my new kitchen. (We were still cleaning up after a one-time significant mouse population…) And I’m pretty sure that Jeremiah told her everything about how his silly wife cried herself to sleep, which is fine. She stayed for hours, helping me clean and looking at me like she wanted to hug me. And when we were done the kitchen was clean, meaning one small corner of my world was settled, and my outlook was better.
It took a week or so to settle in. When we first moved in, the stove was unconnected. Most of our dishes were still packed. Also, the outlet in our bathroom was wallpapered; it literally took me a week to see it, and before then I dried my hair on the bedroom floor. (All the while I wondered why on earth one would fail to put an outlet in a bathroom. It made no sense whatsoever.) As time went by and little things came together, this place started to make some sense to me.
Of course, it helps that I have always viewed this ranch as a sort of second home. Even when the house felt so very foreign, the barns and the fields felt familiar and right.
Yesterday, I ran errands like mad, including a stop at the Heights house. I heard myself, in my head, referring to the place as “Dad’s” and the ranch as “home.” That was weird for me, but I guess I will consider it a step in the right direction, because every day, this place feels a little more like home. It feels a little more right.
Today I made scalloped corn for Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws’ place. It’s my grandmother’s recipe, as much a part of our holiday traditions as the Macy’s parade or pumpkin pie…maybe even more so. I opened the oven to check the progress of the dish.
Scientists says that smell gives us our closest tie to memory of all the senses. I believe them. In that moment, I felt like I was back at grandma’s as a little girl, trudging through their cold porch on the way into the kitchen; scalloped corn was usually the first dish you could smell. And, in that moment, it didn’t matter that I was in a new home in a new town, because there was scalloped corn in the oven, and it was Thanksgiving, and it felt good and familiar and homey.
This year, I am thankful for change, no matter how drastic or scary or huge, because, as they say, change is the only way you grow.