Mothers nurture and feed us from the day we are born and many childhood memories are wrapped up in moments around the table, recipes mom used to make and the iconic pictures in our mind that capture scenes from the past.
Often there are keepsakes that encapsulate those memories and bring the past to the present with just one glance. Whether it was passed down from mom, grandmother or great grandmother, these are the things that are special, full of meaning and stir nostalgia when remembering times around the table.
It’s something different for everyone – a cast iron pan grandma used to make Sunday fried chicken, a Nippon teapot used for ‘big girl’ tea parties, an ironstone mixing bowl passed down through four generations of women, place settings of china or silver given as gifts for special occasions.
From cake pans to tea towels, aprons and sifters – even if it’s just a recipe card or a piece of advice – certain things, simple or fancy, are part of our memories.
“My love for kitchen towels and flour sacks runs deep. In fact, out of all the kitchen towels and flour sacks hanging around in my kitchen, the two closest to my heart remain behind a closed door. When I was a little girl, my great-aunt, Beulah May (Nanny), always had two flour sacks hanging in her pantry. After endless hours of following Nanny around in her beautiful yard, picking blackberries and holding her hand as we walked across an old railroad trestle, she and I would come back to the house and wash our hands together before we made her Old-Fashioned Buttermilk Candy. The flour sacks were there to dry our hands. Hers was the short one; mine was the long one. Nanny left a huge impact, especially on me and my pantry.”
Tradition of Baking
“I have a bundt pan, which belonged to my mother, Anne Johnston Chennault. I think she told me it was a wedding present. She would never part with it and needless to say, it was the first thing I wanted from her kitchen. She made rum cakes at Christmas in that pan, and I have carried on the tradition for the last 15 years.
I also love the wooden bowl my Great-grandmother Hanks used to make her cloverleaf yeast rolls every day. My Grandfather, Luther Johnston, would have those rolls for lunch. She never used a recipe, but they were always perfect. Thanksgiving has never been the same without her rolls!”
Lisa Chennault Meuller
Cucina Italiana Della Nonna
Marilisa Safford was born in Italy and grew up in Verona. Italian kitchens are full of tradition and she would spend hours with her Nonna learning the techniques of Italian cooking.
They used to pick onions and braid them to keep for cooking. The braid would hang on the wall.
“I have an onion braid made of straw that belonged to her. She would always say, ‘La cipolla e' regina della cucina’ – it means the onion is the queen of the kitchen.
“We ate Sunday dinner at Nanna’s house almost every week. We were also there for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner. We were always a large group so Nanna and her sister were always cooking. I was in charge of setting and clearing the table and sometimes PopPop would give me a nickel or two as a tip. They didn’t have much money but there was one fancy teapot that was always in the china cabinet and I loved looking at it. One day after I married, Nanna took it out of the cabinet and gave it to me. She said she always wanted me to have it some day. Now every time I see it in my dining room I think of her.”
Christmas Trees & Santa
Linda Dickens loves fine china, crystal and silver. She is a firm believer that these things are more than just the nice stuff that gathers dust, but objects that hold memories of family and special occasions.
As owner of Charles Dickens Jewelry & Fine Gifts in Palestine, she encourages brides to register for china and crystal – as their mothers and grandmothers did in the past – but sadly that tradition is becoming a thing of the past.
“These days people are only interested in the everyday dishes and whatever is inexpensive,” Mrs. Dickens said.
Her favorite china is the Spode Christmas Tree and she has been adding pieces to her collection for many years. To carry on the tradition she has started giving her three sons a place setting of the china every Christmas.
Two are now married and soon Mrs. Dickens will be a grandmother. Her sons and their wives love the Spode and hope to carry on the tradition with another generation of Dickens children.”
Tea Parties & Roses
“Sitting at the kids table with my cousins in the kitchen was not where I wanted to be. If I couldn’t eat in the dining room with the grown ups I was a very unhappy little girl. My grandmother’s dining room was my favorite place and having tea parties with all of her decorative teacups, pots and plates was part of every trip to her house.
There was one tea set I always admired. It was a Nippon chocolate pot with cups and saucers that were decorated with small pink roses. Although it's supposed to be used for hot chocolate, we always used it for tea.
Also, She had plates that my great grandmother had painted that were adorned with pink roses, too. It was the perfect setting for whatever we decided to serve. Even the dog was invited to join the party.
The last time I saw my grandmother was three weeks before my 30th birthday. As we were loading the car to drive back to Texas, I noticed the Nippon set sitting on the dining room table. She had set it out to give to me for my birthday.
A week after my birthday, she died after a short illness. Now when I look at the tea set, I remember all the fun we had planning tea parties, picking flowers and admiring beautiful roses. Those are wonderful memories and I am happy that she made that last birthday so special.”