It’s the season of food and I won’t lie, I could not be more excited. From turkey to ham, potatoes to yams, brussel sprouts to green beans, rolls to loaves, cakes, pies, cookies and more, oh my, it’s my favorite time of year.
I absolutely love to bake and cook. To me, there is nothing more comforting than coming home from a long and stressful day and getting to work in my kitchen. There is something so comforting about mixing sugar and butter with flour and eggs to create a tasty masterpiece that delights the taste buds of friends and family. Showing up on someone’s doorstep with their favorite baked goods is a way for me to express my love.
I think this love of cooking and baking comes from growing up on our farm. See, one of the earliest things I can remember is my grandmother having a large pot of something on the stove simmering away all day. I would be playing in the living room of my grandparents’ house and the smells would waft from the stove, filling the house with the scent of onions, peppers, carrots and meat. I never quite knew what the mysterious concoction would be since that pot contained grandpa’s dinner and I would be at my own house before grandma worked her magic. The other scent that permeated my growing up years was the scent of fresh baked bread.
To this day, there is nothing more comforting than the smell of a fresh loaf of bread turning golden brown in the oven. My grandmother always made fresh bread for her stepfather while babysitting me. She would set those loaves to rise near a warm vent in the hallway and the smell of the yeast, salt, and flour would lure me to take tiny pinches from that rising dough.
I was always under the assumption that my grandmother made those loaves from scratch; I thought she was a magical bread fairy. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s and we were discussing bread making that she told me her secret — those loaves were frozen, and she simply used the hallway vent to let them thaw. I do not think I have ever been more shocked in my life!
Beyond those shortcuts, I credit my mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and all those Hungarian aunts with my love of cooking. Sometimes when I make a traditional dish, I smile as I think about my great-grandmother sifting together the ingredients for nutty cake or stirring a pot of green bean soup. These memories connect me to the past, but also let me give thanks for the present.
See, my ancient relatives had to grow their green beans and make so many things from scratch that it was probably a burden. I, on the other hand, have the luxury of buying a boxed cake mix should I need a cake in a hurry. I also have access to some vegetables, fruits and things that my relatives would not have dreamed about. Year-round walking into the produce section, I see a beautiful selection of oranges, limes, lemons, kiwi, avocados, green beans, berries, and a variety of other things that are not native to Ohio, especially in these fall and winter months. Thanks to farmers and innovators, foodies and consumers are able to have access to the best variety and quality of food products from all over the world.
As someone who is dreaming of cranberry sauce and stuffing right now, in this season of gratitude, I am grateful for so many things. I’m grateful for the love of cooking, instilled by the generations of women in my family who stood over pots stirring magical concoctions while the scents created memories of home.
I’m grateful for the farmers who ventured to try growing new crops and worked to improve their farming practices. I’m grateful to the innovators who learned how to store and transport products so that I can have lemons in Ohio in December. I’m grateful for the recipes and lessons that were passed down. I’m grateful for family and friends who let me show up on their doorsteps with food and baked goods. Most of all, dear readers, I’m grateful that you take a moment to read my column. I hope that you have a blessed Thanksgiving!
Clemson is a member of the Trumbull County Farm Bureau and completed her doctorate at the Pennsylvania State University. She and her family farm in Mecca.