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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Drawing from the Past

(How My Mother’s Embroidered Apron Unfolds in My
by Arshille Gorky, 1904?-1948, Armenian-born
American painter)

One of my most cherished possessions is a page from a cookbook my mother had kept since she was a young woman. It includes a recipe for Rumtopf, or rum pot, printed in the old German fraktur font, with her underlinings of instructions she thought important.

The directions for this traditional German way of preserving fresh fruit are easy to follow. Around June, begin to gather the fruits of summer from local markets or farms, especially strawberries, raspberries, peaches, pears, and plums. Mangoes, grapes, kiwi, pineapple, and cherries are also good for this. Over the months, add the fruit, washed and chopped and peeled, if necessary, to a mixture of white sugar and the best dark rum. Store in a large glass container with a tight top, in a cool corner of the basement. By New Year’s, this ruby-red nectar will be just perfect to serve over pound cake or vanilla ice cream.

(There are only a few rules. Avoid bananas, the hard seeds of fruit, melons for their high water content, and blackberries, gooseberries, and rhubarb for their bitter taste. Check occasionally that the
Rumtopf is kept cool; if fermentation does occur, you have to discard everything and start anew.)


Only Mama and I were at home.
We ate tomato sandwiches
with sweeps of mayonnaise
on indifferent white bread.

Surely it was September,
my older brother at school.
The tomatoes were fragrant
and richly red, perhaps the last before frost.

I was alert to the joy of eating
sandwiches alone with Mama, bare
feet braced on the underpinnings
of the abraded kitchen table.

Once, I’d made a mark in the wood
by pressing too hard as I traced
the outline of a horse.

I was no good at drawing — from life,
or from imagination. My brother
was good at it, and I was alert
to that, too.

~ Jane Kenyon (1947-1995), American poet

1 comment:

GretchenJoanna said...

Love this food/kitchen/mother theme. Thanks for the recipe, and the apron painting -- it's amazing.