Victoria DeVita – My grandmother was a terrible cook.
I don’t think she particularly liked cooking either. And yet, as I stood in my kitchen about to take on the mountain of learning how to cook the other night, I found myself reaching out to her in my mind for guidance and wisdom.
She may not have liked to cook, but the memories I have of my Nana Peg all involve her being in the kitchen and cooking up something from her many recipe cards (aside from the memories of her trying to make me watch daytime soap operas).
The other day, I attempted to make homemade pasta sauce for the first time ever. For a complete novice in the kitchen, this is a pretty involved process. I needed to wash the veggies, chop them, season them, roast them, and blend them.
While all of this was happening I needed to cook the meatballs, boil the water, stir the pasta, and I had to do all of this while my fourteen-month-old daughter toddles between me and her dad begging for “uppies.”
Needless to say, I was overwhelmed.
Suddenly I was a young girl again standing in the small kitchen of Nana Peg’s trailer and watching her cook her famous shrimp scampi. She may not have been a good cook but she had nailed down that recipe.
It has been years since her passing and my mom has only attempted the dish one time since; not sure how to get the flavors just right. If you flash forward a few years from that memory, you’ll see me and Nana Peg driving to the closest grocery store to pick up the ingredients for fried dough because she had seen someone eating it on the TV and was determined that she could make it if she tried. Her rendition wasn’t far off.
All of this to say, my memories of Nana Peg are shrouded in our shared love of food and our hatred/fear/hesitation of cooking it. And so, standing in the kitchen with all of the ingredients for my homemade pasta sauce laid out in front of me, I called out to Nana Peg for guidance and asked her to lend whatever energy she could spare into helping me create a decent-tasting meal for my family.
After a few consults with an online recipe, some strong intuition, and a little help from Nana Peg, I was able to cook up a very hearty and very yummy pasta dinner.
It was my first time, truly, being able to cook a whole meal from start to finish and having it taste good. This was an incredibly big feat for me. And if Nana Peg were here I know she would’ve told me it was “alright” which, in her books, was just about the best compliment you could get.
Our brains are weird in the memories they choose to keep and remember. Is it odd that my brain latched on to the handful of times that my grandmother cooked for me? Maybe. But that’s what stuck. And if I need to call upon her begrudging spirit to help me sharpen this new skill, then that’s what will happen.
She’d never say it – in fact, she would avidly deny it – but I know she appreciates lending a helping hand.
Victoria DeVita is a freelance writer and author who has spent their entire life writing in one form or another. While they were a stay-at-home mom for their daughter, Victoria found writing to be an incredible way to stay grounded and flex their creative muscles. Graduating with a Master’s degree in English and Creative Writing in meant that they could set their sights on making writing their full-time gig. With a focus on accessible and engaging storytelling, Victoria prides themself on writing content that understands their audience and meets them where they’re at. They are always interested in learning new things and answering questions on the topics they love! Find Victoria at Instagram @victoria.devita and at victoriadevita.com.