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Around the Kitchen Table

Maureen Weber


There’s too much going on these days, but then again not enough. The fun stuff is all in the future and I’m having a tough time living in the present moment, which today is snowy, but it was summer on Saturday. That’s what you get for early April. The waiting for everything — spring, Gerard’s wedding — makes me restless.

And this: you might remember I wrote recently that Russ and I are expecting our first grandchild this fall. I won’t bore you with the emotional roller-coaster, every food craving or every incremental size the child has reached at any given moment. OK, when I began writing this she was the size of an apple, but by the time you read this (if you haven’t already stopped) she will be a sweet potato, or if your mail delivery is really poor, a mango. Then again, by the time you read this, the gender-determining ultrasound may have already taken place and she might actually be a he.

There’s an entire Internet industry devoted to comparing the size of an unborn child to fruits and vegetables. Leigh said when the baby was as big as a strawberry she fretted about size: a mammoth California strawberry or a petite Quebec strawberry?

Mostly, though, these food comparisons haven’t affected Leigh at all. She’s still eating normally. Just the other day she walked to Dairy Queen to get a hot fudge sundae with whipped cream. I don’t know what size she ordered, or if she realized that the whipped cream would be a dizzying white spiral that rivalled the tower of Babel, but when she walked by a little boy holding a mini ice cream cone, he gasped and said, “Mommy, look at that!” His mother, practically shielding the child’s eyes, said something like “yes, dear, now eat your ice cream cone.” When it comes to ice cream, the term mini will not be in Leigh’s child’s lexicon.

It would seem more helpful for Leigh if babies were compared to the size of, say, Nerds, Skittles, gummies, chocolate Easter eggs, macarons, cupcakes, lemon meringue tarts, croissants, Danish Oven long johns and eventually a carrot cake loaf.

When Leigh was little, her love of sweets was legendary. She once spent her entire allowance on penny candy, eating it all in one sitting (which was when she found out there is such a thing as too much candy). Her most memorable childhood birthday party, she says, had Candyland as its theme, and guests strung necklaces of sugared sweets to take home with them.

I’ve always been thankful Leigh married a dentist, but so far she hasn’t given Nohé any cause for concern, even though the salesperson at the Nordstrom candy counter remembers her name without asking.

I had two cravings while pregnant: Coke slushes and hotdogs with relish, but my dad figured I should have a craving for Brussels sprouts since, as he said, I was having “Russel’s sprouts.”

But fruits and vegetables are associated with health, not comfort, and it is comfort food that’s intimately tied with our memories of love and home. The most special times I can remember as a child were those spent at my grandmother’s house, with her cinnamon buns or chocolate chip cookies cooling on the counter, but especially her layered prune cake, as we called it, more commonly known as vinarterta (Icelandic cake). I wonder how an Irish grandmother had a traditional Icelandic cake as her specialty.

When I ask my own children of their special memories, they all talk of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s for lunch on school days, and for after-school treats, usually involving cookies. Their most special memory of home was of their dad taking them to the Danish Oven bakery every Saturday morning — a ritual that went on for years. The rituals may have be centred on food, but the real gift was that of unconditional, loving presence. It’s a gift that lasts a lifetime.

Whereas my children grew up only blocks away from their grandparents — their second home — my first grandchild will grow up several thousand kilometres away. There will not be recollections of cookies after school, or Saturday morning trips to the bakery, but I hope this little one will grow up remembering the Nana who walked with her to get ice cream every time she came to the big city. I can hardly wait!