Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Passing On Dying Arts

Yesterday I was on a train heading for NYC … it’s was a beautiful day and I spent the ride with my good friend next to me.

As we flew along the tracks, I was amazed to watch her sew. Pants, for a reception we have to go to later in the evening, needed hemming. She pulled out a needle and thread.

I have read that cooking and sewing are dying arts. Kids don’t learn how to sew anymore, and in a couple more generations, the ability to do basic sewing will be lost. The same with cooking. It reminded me of my junior high school home economics class.

I never put a neck hole in the shirt I made. Oops. I failed sewing and I was basically a straight A student. Luckily, the second half of the year was cooking and I did very well.

My mother taught me to cook. How to crack an egg, whisk with a stiff wrist and measure flour- never pack it in, just scoop and level with a knife. Always clean as you go and figure out what sized bowl to start with so you wouldn’t go through everyone in the kitchen. The woman could cook Thanksgiving dinner and have the place almost completely clean by the time dinner was served.

It was an art. Not to mention her fried chicken was something dreams are made of.

I asked my friend about her sewing. It seems she made her own clothes in high school, learned to do amazing things with the sewing machine but now mostly focuses on quilts and hemming pants.

Do your kids know you sew?

She paused and said, I think so…

Show them, I said.

I may not be able to sew, but I can cook. I love to cook. It’s an art I learned from my mother and went on to become great at myself. I still clean as I go and I can cook anything from foie gras (high heat and don’t let it melt away!), to fabulous omelets.

Still can’t do my mother’s fried chicken, though.

I can’t pass down the ability to sew. Yes, my mother did sew, and I’m sure she was lovely at it, but it never interested me. I can remember playing with her sewing machine- pressing the pedal a little, then a lot, briefly amused by the roar and how the bobbin slowed down but … it didn’t have wheels, it couldn’t go outside and I hated shots at the doctor’s office- needles were not something I cared to be around anymore than I had to.

I am deeply in awe of my friend’s ability.

I hope she shows her kids. I know I need to show mine the art of cooking. As I stood in the kitchen Sunday morning and showed Ben and Zachary how to crack an egg- one, quick forceful stroke, don’t be afraid, you’re trying to break it- I realized I’m often in too much of a hurry to let them pull up a chair and help stir.

The extra time may install a deep love of a dying art.

And let me pass down a gift I treasure deeply from my own mother.


Anonymous Laura said...

the things we learn from the generations before us are a treasure.

My Grandmother (who we always lived with - Italain...remember?) was a fantastic cook. Didnt have a recipe written down, everything was by sight, taste and feel. I would watch her make homemade gnocchi for years. She would yell and scream for me to get away from the table (because God FORBID there was a hair in the food) when I was younger. But I still sat and watched - so enthrawled by what she was doing. As I grew she let me start helping her. She taught me all her secrets and I learned about all of the wonderful treats she made - and with so much love. Then as she got older she couldnt do it anymore so I took over and she sat and watched ME! It really was amazing to me and I guess to her too!

I will treasure those memories always - and I miss her so much - but it makes me feel good that I can still carry on tradition in the house!

11:34 AM  

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