I have finally resigned myself to the fact that my mother wasn’t a cook. She could till a plot of ground and work the garden until dark all summer. She scrubbed every wall in the house, washed and ironed into the wee hours after working a shift on her feet at the grocery store. But she only learned from her own mother that the kitchen was hot, that canning season seemed endless and there were only so many pigs feet she could gnaw on. Its no wonder she was glad to go to work.
No cookies were baked in our oven but occasionally a Jiffy cake mix appeared and the three of us would scrap over the crumbs like a pack of hungry mongrels. Once a year at Christmas time this German workhorse of a woman would make one unfailing delight for us.
After much hinting and playful cajoling from the man whose left hook could bring her to her knees, she gave in. I was alerted by the sound of the small electric mixer cord swinging against the cabinet door as she retrieved it from its dusty box. Bowls, pans, sugar spilling, syrup measured and soon the familiar rise of the acrid exhaust from the mixer’s motor that had just been rudely awakened from its year-long slumber. No wooden spoons in our kitchen, just the scraping of stainless steel on stainless steel. Droning became more labored and then stopped.
Into a pan lay the white molten ooze which she quickly smoothed out, then cut into squares and dusted with powdered sugar. It was a miracle to behold—science and strong biceps had produced a pan of homemade marshmallows. Only once did my father intrude on the process by insisting that anise flavoring be added in remembrance of his dear departed Italian mama who had never made this delicacy in her life. Powdered sugar everywhere, dusting my father’s mustache, on my pajamas and a thin layer along the stove top my mother must have remembered herself as a little girl standing on the kindling box in her mother’s steamy kitchen waiting patiently for her piece of marshmallow to appear. Then it would be Christmas for her too.