BURN THE BUTTER
Burn the butter along with the many other little lessons my grandmother taught me without trying to teach me is some of the best cooking and life advice from a woman who was born and raised in the Midwest and found her way to Boston in her post college years. For those cooks out there scratching their heads at the notion that burning the butter is actually a good piece of cooking advice, march forth. When it comes to scrambled eggs, burn the butter is the secret ingredient to the tastiest scrambled eggs bringing me back to my childhood, a childhood layered with butter and cream and coats upon coats of rich dairy staples. Burn the butter should be more like brown the butter, not really burning it, but getting it to the point when the butter is melting and it gets that rich caramel like smell. If you added a teaspoon of sugar, it could almost be dessert itself. But you don’t, you add two scrambled eggs and mix well until they are ladened with the butter, just soft enough to feel creamy, but not wet enough to be slimy. The perfect scrambled egg was one of the many morning routines from my grandmother, put on sliced thin Pepperidge Farm white toast (do they still even make this?) also with just a hint of butter as her morning staple. And a small carafe of black coffee.
My grandmother, Kitsie, my mother’s mother had lots of one liners and sometimes my Aunt and I try to remember them. “There’s enough blue in the sky to make a dutchman’s pants.” would mean that the sky would be clearing and it wouldn’t rain if the sky had the clouds in it that otherwise would make you think it was about to. “She was a colorless girl,” to describe someone who was bland and nondescript. “He who hath no expectations, shan’t be disappointed,” was another frequent phrase, spoken from a woman who had to work on this for a good part of her life. Like recipes, the pearls of wisdom from long gone family members instilled in our hearts and souls is often the words they left us with that we find ourselves reflecting upon in our daily lives especially now that I am getting older.
My neighbor Dottie, has lots of these one liners, too that are already embedded in my heart. One of my favorites is, “You can’t see it from Fall River,” meaning don’t worry about it. Just forge ahead. Like a recipe from our childhood, the words that are said often innocently are the ones that stick around in our daily mantras without really thinking about them that much; they just appear out of nowhere almost letting us know that these important people in our lives are very much still with us. I like the comfort of that.
Like this morning when I decided to make my eggs in my grandmother’s style almost burning the butter, having toast for a change also with butter and a little strawberry jam. I went out on my front porch to eat my breakfast. Rather than try to balance the plate, the tea and my laptop, its own recipe for a spill, I did it the civilized way, placed it on my favorite tray and made my way to the fresh air in the early morning light. My grandmother did this almost every time I slept at her house except she ate breakfast in bed reading one of her library books. For her morning ritual she would wake up, get breakfast ready and place it on a tray and bring it into her bedroom. I always remember her eating breakfast in bed. I can’t remember the last time I did that and actually it doesn’t really speak to me like breakfast outside on the front porch the morning after a rain and thunderstorm in one of my many sitting areas I have created.
Rituals of sitting and resting, like rituals of language are an important part of my life. I love to exercise and write, but creating spaces in my space is something that really speaks to me. When I freed myself from the boundaries of social norms like having a dining room, a living room, a tv area, my house opened up like Pandora’s box. I created multiple sitting areas in my house, in my business and outside so that at any given point in time, I could have a place to read or write or contemplate. When I say multiple, I’m not kidding, I counted and came up with eleven! Just by giving myself permission to not have a traditional dining room and living room, the world of my home became my oyster and my dining room became the perfect nook for writing on a cold winter day or a bird singing spring morning. The kitchen became a great place for a rocker to look at my garden and write in my garden journal all the plans that if I get to even a quarter of them will be success. Maybe it was my grandmother’s influence all these years later of watching her draw her evening bath before bed or make her breakfast and have her own party in her bed that stuck with me in the importance of self love, self care and .
Every time I smell butter or put a plate on a tray, she is with me. These simple root filled memories are the ones that stick. As I make my way today to the second funeral I am attending of another much too young woman who died this past week, it is those little nuggets in our lives that are the literal bread and butter of our daily grind. These are the joys and memories I keep close to my heart as I once again realize how precious and fragile life is. Short for sure. This is why the butter tasted so good today.