repost: keeping house

Author: angiem, 02 10th, 2010

before the microwave incident

One Saturday morning when I was 12, my father woke up and decided that that was the day his daughters would learn the feminine art of keeping house. “Marioara,” he said to my mom, “these girls are getting as tall as poplars and all they do is play.” Now I may have been 12, and already taller than my mom, but my sisters were 10 and 7, and petite. However, that’s how things were done in our family. The entire group was involved. Example: if one of us broke a rule, we all paid for it. The reasoning? So we’d learn the consequence and not attempt to break a rule, ever again. Sometimes it worked, most often it didn’t. It created an accomplice sort of bond between the five of us kids, though, and we saw to it that we weren’t found out.

My mom, being the wise woman she is, set about finding age appropriate tasks for us three. The youngest was shown how to fold clothes and organize the closets. The second was soon scrubbing the toilets, polishing the furniture and vacuuming, and I got sent to the kitchen to start on the soup, and peel the potatoes. I was 12, old enough to know better than burn down the house.

All the while cleaning the chicken, I was remembering the ones at my Tanti Marie’s country house, running around the yard without their heads, blood splattering everywhere. Not a pretty sight, nor memory. But I persevered and soon enough I added it to the cold water-filled pot waiting for it. To that I added salt, carrots, onion, celery, and parsley, placed the lid on top and moved on to the potatoes.

I will admit that to this day, I do not enjoy peeling potatoes. There is something about their cold and slimy texture (to me, at least) that raises the hair on my arms. I cut them, cubed them, filled another pot with cold, fresh water, added salt and the potatoes, and set them to boil. After the potatoes were fully cooked, I drained them, added the softened butter that had been sitting on the counter for so long it had practically melted, and then the milk, and stirred like crazy.  They turned out delicious.

When the soup was ready, my mom strained it, disposing of the celery, parsley, and onion, saved the meat and carrots on the side for frying them later, and explained the importance of simmering the homemade noodles in the soup broth. Thankfully, I didn’t have to make the noodles. Those remained my mother’s and grandmother’s responsibility. 

Over the years I experimented with the addition of herbs, garlic, roasted shallots, heavy cream, sour crème, crème fraiche, and a few other condiments in my mashed potatoes. The soups became more complicated as well. Yet, regardless of the outcome, my most proud moment is when we sat down for lunch on that Saturday, and I served everyone the chicken noodle soup and mashed potatoes I had made.


36 Responses to “repost: keeping house”

  1. Holly L Says:

    I love your kitchen…ours will not make a blog debut until it is in the “after” photo (we are hoping to start renovations soon!).
    What a lovely story. I never learned how to cook at home, from my mom…it was never important in our house…I wish it would have been like this though, with the family.
    When I finally started really cooking, I was surprised at how much pride I did feel when I made a good meal and served my family.

  2. Ava Says:

    Looooove your kitchen!
    Awesome how you learned to cook when you were young. I wish I did too. Sadly I was a child brought up on fast food. But I taught myself!!! You had the best childhood! Realllllly!

  3. Beth Says:

    The first “meal” I ever made as a child was hot dogs. I can still make a wicked meal out of those! The condiments are a bonus… ;)

  4. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    I’m totally jealous of your kitchen

    I loved how you shared this memory. I can picture you there, smell the soup. I think you should be proud of yourself too, then and now.
    There is something about serving our loved ones food… it fills my soul in a way most things don’t. Always has .

  5. Janna Qualman Says:

    What a lovely story! How it stuck with you. And it’s shaped you, that experience. :)

    Is that your kitchen in the picture? Gorgeous. We’ll be starting the remodel of ours soon, and I’m taking notes about what I like.

  6. Cindy La Ferle Says:

    Another beautiful photo of your home! Your domestic gifts include a wonderful sense of interior design … Keep those photos coming!

    And I’ve always loved keeping house. I live in a drafty old Tudor which is often in need of repair, but thankfully I’m married to an architect who knows what to do. There’s something deeply satisfying in caring for “home.” And making soup in my kitchen is one of life’s pleasures. Thanks for the reminder.

  7. She Writes Says:

    I love hearing about how families work. Enjoyed hearing you tell of yours.

  8. French Fancy Says:

    Is that a photo of your kitchen Angie? If so it is gorgeous.


  9. Francesca Says:

    You were the lucky one! I’ll take cooking over folding laundry and cleaning any time. I wonder how many 12 year olds cook Saturday lunch today … what a good way to teach you something useful for yourself while doing something helpful for your family.

  10. Jena Says:

    I love it when mothers and fathers teach their children to nurture themselves and their future families. Its sad that housekeeping is almost extinct.

  11. pamela Says:

    Oh, you got the best job by far. I love to make soup…. certainly better than cleaning bathrooms!!

  12. Diane Says:

    I have bad potato memories too. Primarily from asking my mom to learn how to cook and her telling me to peel the potatos with a 25 year old peeler that was horrible. I learned never to ask how to cook, hence the baking I love to do but not cooking! :O)

  13. Mary Moon Says:

    I have such good cooking memories of first meals. My favorite is the one where I sat a pot of meat with potatoes and carrots and onions in water over a fire to cook for a Girl Scout thing. There was something so very fitting about it- it seemed perfectly right and I had one of those moments of epiphany- I am meant to do this! And I have been cooking ever since.

  14. audrey Says:

    it would be sheer pleasure to sit down with you and enjoy some of your delicious soup. it really does sound yummy!

    i so love this story, one of love and family, trying and succeeding!! the beginning of many a delicous meal i am sure.

    my mom never taught me to cook, she says she regrets it. she thought it was easier just for her to do it herself.

    to this day boiling an egg is a challenge… but i try.

    love to you! this is a really lovely story.

  15. krista Says:

    such a beautiful story.
    i don’t even eat meat and i want some of that chicken soup!

  16. Corinne Says:

    Your kitchen is gorgeous! I’m also not a fan of peeling potatoes…
    There is no greater satisfaction than making a homecooked, soulful meal…

  17. Jessica Says:

    Is that your kitchen!!!! It’s gorgeous.

    I was taught early on how to clean, and I’m starting my little guys on emptying the trash cans. *grin*

    But I really wish someone would’ve taught me how to cook. I mostly know boxed food. A few other meals I taught myself but nothing passed on, unfortunately. You’re very blessed to have that! Though I don’t envy your chicken memory. Yuck! I was lucky, I was at a friend’s house the day my stepdad decided to chop some chickens up. Ewww

  18. bethany Says:

    what a cool memory.
    you should’ve been proud.
    i love how you just made the soup and potatoes as if you’ve been doing it forever.
    sounds delicious.

  19. rick Says:

    Ang- some people like peeling potatoes? You made kitchens warmer all over today with this telling. Take care~rick

  20. laura Says:

    yes, angie, your home is so lovely…it shines you, you, YOU!

    And how jealous I am of this memory. What a blessing to learn these precious gifts as a family, to have a father who sees their value! Ah, if I had such a gift, perhaps I would be a very virtuous cleaner too :)

    Love to you, friend.

  21. Evangeline Says:

    This story made me warm. :) Lovely.

    My first adventure in the kitchen was making “Busy Day Cake” from the Better Homes & Garden cookbook. It was about an inch high, and dense as could be, but I was so proud!

  22. gillian Says:

    The greatest moment of my nine year old’s life as of late…the Shephard’s Pie she cooked all by herself for dinner the other night. I get this story so much!

    Have you ever tried Herb & Garlic cream cheese in the mashed potatoes? My mother was here last week and we were out of sour cream so she made us mashed with the flavoured cream cheese. Creamy and spicy and delicious.

    To this day, mashed potatoes are one of my all time favourite foods. xoxoxo

  23. Stephanie Baffone Says:

    I think you and I lived parallel lives-not with the chicken part but the learning housework. They should bring back Home Economics in schools. Some kids could use it!
    I always love seeing your name on my blog and Facebook. You are one terrific virtual friend, sister!

  24. Stephanie Faris Says:

    Love the kitchen. My mom tells stories about killing chickens when she was a teenager. She described in vivid detail how horrible it was to watch them run around like that. Then she had to de-feather them and such. ICK! I couldn’t have done all that!

  25. Crystal Says:

    oh that is so cool, besides the bloody headless chickens part, lol.

  26. angiem Says:

    Holly - I am sure your kitchen is beautiful as is. Cooking for the family is always so rewarding. I love watching their faces enjoy what I prepared.

    Ava - I did have a beautiful childhood, although at the time, I wasn’t too crazy having to learn how to cook. I would have rather read.

    Haha, Beth! You’re funny! :)

    Deb - Thank you. And I so agree with you. It is a lovely feeling.

    Janna - I can’t wait to see your kitchen remodel.

    Cindy, thank you. It is indeed satisfying.

    Amy - I also enjoy reading about families.

    Thank you, Julie. :)

    Francesca - I agree. It is a disappearing art.

    Jena - Yes. A tragedy really. There’s such simply and satisfying pleasure in nurturing oneself. As long as one doesn’t become enslaved by it.

    Pamela - Certainly!!

    It’s okay, Diane. I don’t know how to bake. And I know you’re a better baker than I am cook. :)

    Ms. Moon - I bet you are an awesome cook. What a lovely first experience! Cooking with a whole gang of girlfriends.

    Audrey - You come on over girl, I will make you any soup you want. That’s a promise.

    Krista - Thank you. Shh.. don’t tell anyone, but I’m debating giving up meat.

    Corinne - Peeling potatoes is absolutely horrible!

    Jessica - I know all about your perfectionist nature.

  27. deb @ talk at the table Says:

    sending Valentine weekend love to you, and your beautiful family, Angie.

  28. Susu Paris Chic Says:

    I have an award for you Angie, my wonderful fellow blogger… because your posts make my days a whole dose sweeter!

    Wishing you the sweetest of Valentine’s!

  29. julie Says:

    Hi Angie
    The soup sounds wonderful.. making me yearn for chicken soup!! You know I still hate vacuuming and washing the floors.. as that was my job.!!

    I think you father was a wise man.. by creating accomplices of you five.. he allowed you all to create a bond! xx Julie

  30. Lydia, Clueless Crafter Says:

    On this Valentine’s Day you’ve got my mind thinking about a special moment I had with my father as I was coming of age.

    I was about 11 years old and he decided that it would be best if he taught his daughter and her best friend how to dine out with manners, how to exhibit politesse and make conversation. He booked an appointment at a local brasserie and went through etiquette with his daughter and friend.

    We both cherish the moment my dad took us seriously enough to welcome us into the adult work. Talk about a cool gesture. He’s always been so creative.

    As you have done, I’ve taken those important first lessons and run with them.

    Warmest regards to you on this Valentine’s Day.

  31. Jeanne Says:

    I am reading this as I am about to take out the chicken soup I have been brewing in our slow cooker for the last 5 hours. I have a feeling yours would taste better. I like your parents organizational skills…good to start the kids on chores early on ! I have something on my post for you when you have a moment. Hope you have had a lovely day…
    Jeanne :)

  32. Mama Zen Says:

    For me, it was pecan pie. When I mastered pecan pie, I felt like I had learned one of the great secrets of womanhood.

  33. Se'lah Says:

    Happy Love Day Angie!

    sending lots of love your way.
    i am so happy that we’ve met.

    one love.

  34. Kary Gonyer Says:

    well this was for me…LOVE this so MUCH…the soup, the kitchen, the mashed potatoes…you words are so beautifully written…


    sending valentine love

  35. angiem Says:

    Thank you, Bethany. It is a simple, but very delicious soup.

    Rick - Thank you.

    Laura, thank you. You make me smile. I don’t know what you mean though. From what I’ve seen, your home is very clean.

    Evangeline - Better Homes and Garden has some very yummy recipes. I bet it was delicious too.

    Gillian - I am impressed! My nine year old can only boil water for pasta. Thank you for the Herb and Garlic cream cheese tip. I will make them for dinner tonight.

    Thank you, Stephanie B.! I love being your virtual friend! :) And I had no idea Home Economics isn’t taught anymore.

    Stephanie F. - I couldn’t do that either. Plucking the feathers is too much for me.

    Crystal - You’re hilarious!

    Susa - Thank you, friend. Same to you!

    You know, Julie, I never looked at it that way, but we are a very close knit family.

    Lydia - I love it when you write about your parents. Your dad knew a thing or two about manners, didn’t he?

    Thank you, Jeanne. However, I doubt my soup tastes better. :)

    Mama Zen - That is one secret of womanhood I will probably never learn. I am horrible at baking of any sort.

    Me too, Se’lah! Happy Valentine’s to you!

    Kary - Thank you! That’s exactly how I feel when I visit you. Happy Valentine’s!

  36. Relyn Says:

    What a wonderful memory. I’d like to hear more about the trouble the five of you got into.

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