August 31, 2012


Every once in a while, I am reminded that I was very spoiled to have a mother with a degree in home economics who taught "foods" and "sewing" and various other skills that were not commonly acquired in a formal manner by American women my age.

I did 4-H as a kid (primarily because my father had done it his entire childhood until college).  Many years my mom would lead a 4-H group on a topic of her choosing that I had to participate in and many other young girls (always girls) joined.

I have strong memories of the bread group, the preserves group, and the international foods group, all led by mom.  (I also have strong memories of the unicycling and clowning group, the rabbit group, the stained glass group, and others, but those memories aren't centered around my mother.)

Last night, at the last summer barbeque of the season, I was reminded again of the blessing that is my mother's formal training in foods.

I had made gazpacho from garden tomatoes, garden cucumbers, garden hungarian carrot peppers, and grocery store onions and bell peppers (plus the required olive oil and spices).  I offered it to everyone who attended.

Gazpacho is E's favorite soup, and easily one of my top 3 favorite soups.  Early in our relationship, he made me ask his mother for her recipe and I was amused to find it almost identical to the recipe (if you can call it that) I know from my mother.  Given that his family is from NY and the South and I'm a west-coaster through and through, since we both considered it a staple, I guess I assumed gazpacho was ubiquitous in America.

But at last night's BBQ, at least 15% of the recipients (in this so-called land of the foodies) had *never* had it.  And many of the others were pleasantly surprised, saying things like, "I hope this doesn't offend you, but this is like the best salsa ever" or "Wow, this is amazing.  I've never liked gazpacho before."  This reminded me that when I made it once for my childhood best friend, she said, "Doesn't gazpacho have garbanzo beans?"  In other words, last night, I realized that almost everyone I know isn't as familiar with gazpacho as E and me.

Today, after giving it a bit more thought, I realized the reason I'm so comfortable with gazpacho is that my mother went out of her way to expose us kids to international foods. She went out of her way to educate us on foreign culture in areas where she had expertise.  And she did such a good job that I am occasionally shocked to learn that despite my rural upbringing, I was given a much  more worldly perspective in childhood than I ever realized.  When a group of professionals in Silicon Valley from all over the country and the world don't know the name of the food you are serving, you quickly realize that your food knowledge is more extensive and worldy than you thought. 

Also, there is nothing like getting a group of folks to agree that Californian grown gazpacho is delicious!

Thanks, Mom.


Cathy said...

My mom made gazpacho. Apparently in the early 70s she took a lot of adult school cooking classes covering a variety of cuisines. I grew up eating the results.

Biting Tongue said...

@Cathy -- what a great story!

Unknown said...

Thank you! It was thrilling to parent such a gifted child. Your constant craving for MORE understanding and new experiences is still very evident in your life. At 2+ you began creating your first imaginary friends. By the time you were 3+ you had an elaborate community of creative names & personalities: I was relieved after finding imaginary friends to be yet another indicator of high level creative thinking & problem solving and was relieved to see you always talking to your friends and NEVER assuming the personality which would have been a troublesome warning sign. You created unique friends with a thematic approach: Seega, baby sister Seega, Mama Seega, Papa Parba, Aunt Marba, Uncle Parba, Aunt Karba, baby Sarba and so on. Yep you were linguistically creative and tuned in from the get go!
You were born with a NEED TO KNOW, and try it out yourself. 'Me do it' 'How?', 'WHY?' 'Let Me SEE'....better yet... ' Let me do it' You have been driven from birth and it shows in everything you to take on. Your passions such as master gardening, plus exquisite cooking are more evidence of your essence!
Reading your blog and writing this has been a gratifying exercise reflecting on my own meaningful childhood experiences that contributed to my life. I have loved creative art & design throughout my life. Finally in retirement I am able to really pursue my love, watercolor painting. My parents shared their love of art & theater. At a very young age I knew and recognized several famous artist because I was previlged to actually see their works: Picaso, Kandinsky, Monte, Warburton, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Dali, Rodin,. Beautiful Gardens were a favorite spot light of my upbringing.
A mix of memorable events was in traveling all dressed up from HOT Oroville to even HOTTER SACRAMENTO without A/C during the summer months; finally arriving only to sit in flimsy canvas chairs, in a very hot tent called the Music Circus. Efforts made to cool off the tent dwellers by rolling up the sides were in vain. YOu can't cool off the inside when the outside is just as hot! We saw many of Roger and Hammerstein’s Musicals & others: Oklahoma, The King and I, South Pacific, Little Abner, Camelot just to name a few etc. We explored outdoor sites especially Yosemite. We were members of the local Rock Hound & fozzil club. Many a family outing centered around Big Digs. We carefully removed fozzils with dentistry tools.
My dad, a self taught high school drop out, was a gifted problem solver. If we needed something he would create it. My mom complained about the noise of the new HI FI when she answered the phone… so my Dad created his “Music Mute”. Once he bought a sophisticated Heathe TV Kit to build with the newest craze..‘TRANSITORS’. I have fond memories working along side my dad in the GARAGE building projects: like miniature tooth pick kites. Our trial flights centered around great food & family picnics. (Love those pickle eggs & beets)

A man of few words: he always encouraged a 'YES YOU CAN' attitude. WE played board games after dinner or closed the kitchen down to set up my dad's dark room to develop & print our 127 black & white film. We made our own laminated lemon wood bows, arrows & accessories. You become a pretty good shot when you’re the daughter of a gun smith.
We often ended the day by playing cards or board games; especially ones that reinforced problem solving, memory & number relationships laying the foundation for a love of math & science.
So Tennille it all filters down, keep enjoying your talents & sharing them with all of us! By the way...where are my 2012 tomatoes?