My Mother Is Yellow

When asked her favorite color my mother would have told you it was blue. Still, I think of yellow when I remember my mom, years spent peering up at the counter as she mixed and measured cakes using her yellow pyrex bowl. When she pulled this bowl out of the cabinet I knew delicious things were in my future. I could consider the electric skillet as a symbol of my mother, she did a lot frying for our family. But the yellow bowl, that was the good stuff. That was when mom was making cookies and cakes and the extras, before boxes made the process easier, faster. The yellow bowl meant dessert, meant mom was going to hand out one electric beater and the emptied bowl to each of her three children to lick, the pre-dessert to children who hovered about her legs and watched and probably whined as she spent even more time in the kitchen after working outside our home and making meals all week. Yellow is my mom to me, the times she nurtured us with sweet delights beyond just feeding us.

I always knew that when she died, the bowl would be my inheritance. One day though before she left us, I discovered it in my brother’s cabinet. I had never told her what the bowl represented, I am not sure I knew it back then.  She had already given it to him, she no longer needed such a big item as her baking days were mostly behind her. She bought her cakes and pies and treats at the store or more accurately, her husband did. Each trip to my brother’s house saw me trying to sneak the bowl away, his watchful eyes ensured I was never successful. A trip through some antique shops allowed the purchase of not one but two of these bowls, a back-up, just in case. Not the same, not the years of mom scraping the sides and standing over it, but still, my cabinet stores my own yellow bowl, a legacy of cakes and cookies. (I have teased my brother that I have swapped out my store purchase with his bowl, that now he has the antique find and I have mom’s. Can you tell I am a bit hung up on this piece of kitchenware?) My Kitchen-Aid makes mixing those items much faster but I still choose my yellow bowl. I use it for more than baking, it holds soups and spaghetti and most any dinner item. I love my yellow bowl, it connects me to the good parts of my mom.

I remember potato salad from that bowl, the best kind of potato salad, the bowl was always  completely full. I still prefer mine at room temperature, like it was just prepared, like I am eating it right out of mom’s bowl, unable to wait for it all to chill in the refrigerator. The bowl meant it was going to taste good and it did. The one caveat is that every year at Christmas she made a braunschweiger ball that I detested. I was called in to help with the process and abhorred sticking my hands in to the icy mess of cold processed meat and freezing ketchup. I have yet to taste this atrocity. Mom wasn’t perfect with her bowl, I have forgiven this misstep.

My brother is the cook in his household, I cook for anyone who sits still long enough. Mom taught us this is how you show love. Don’t tell my brother but I am secretly glad that we both, the only living family left, have a bowl. We have a piece of the good from our childhood. We shared mixer beaters dripping with batter resting on the edge of a yellow bowl, we fought over that bowl and the chance to run little fingers along the smooth surface to catch the batter she purposely left for us.  The times mom was just a mom.

Before she died,  I was seeking a particular recipe from her. I never got it. She was going to look through all of her cookbooks and call me back. I inherited her books but still can’t find the one that I wanted. Seems fitting, I will always want just a bit more from her. Still, most of my calls to her began with the ask for a recipe, she would rattle it off, I better have something to write on ready. She gave ingredients and steps mixed together, I often had to number and edit or if I was familiar with the steps, I left that part out, just getting quantities. Most of the calls with her ended with a scrap of paper, an envelope that was close by now covered in my horrible handwriting as I flew to keep up. These are the recipes I pulled the most, these are stained and rumpled and well loved. These will be my legacy one day when my children consider what color I am. My favorite color is teal but maybe they will remember me as yellow, like a bowl that I pulled out to make them delightful treats. We don’t get to control how the next generation remembers us, but we can invite them to the table while we are still here. My door is open. Are you hungry? I am happy to whip up something to eat, let me grab my yellow bowl.

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