Love and melancholy rush in whenever I use my Nana Claires bowl. The sturdy piece of yellowware is smooth yet pitted and cracked from age and regular use from three generations of Robb women. Mindful of its heft as I pull the bowl gently from its home on the stainless rack nestled among the other lighter, utilitarian stainless bowls I favor when working in a hurried manner – this is the bowl I use when I have time to cook easy.
I remember the bowl on the breakfast table in Nanas busy kitchen cradling sweet and savory doughs flavored of the Ukraine waiting to be formed into breads and pastries. I picture the bowl sitting on the counter in my mothers kitchen holding a warm, vanilla scented bowl of quivering tapioca pudding; me, eager to scoop out a portion still with a bit of fluffy egg white not completely folded in, squishing the gelatinous bubbles with my tongue into the roof of my mouth. I consider the salad I’m assembling out of what is handy in my refrigerator – vivid yellow and green summer squash and hot pink circles of watermelon radish all shaved thin, clusters of bitter lettuce, torn leaves of fresh mint, a small toss of toasted almond slices all dressed lightly with sea salt, olive oil, lemon juice and a splash of seasoned rice vinegar.
I’m fairly sure my Nana had never seen or tasted a watermelon radish in her rudely interrupted young life, and wonder if my lunch in the yellowware bowl would have pleased her. I take relish in knowing how delighted my mother would have been, another beautiful woman stolen too early, and how she likely would have made some clever fashionable reference as to how the colors in the salad reminded her of a Lily Pulitzer or a Marimekko fabric print. I allow myself to wonder if my own daughter will ever find joy in cooking – at fourteen, her lack of kitchen interest aside from blending up the occasional smoothie fills me at times with more than a tiny bit of sadness. My mind then goes to that place – the place that makes me ponder whether the same cruel and ugly fate dealt to my Nana and my mother will also one day be mine, and whether my daughter will ever cherish the steady history of the yellowware bowl. Then finally, and not without some exasperation and a smile at my own propensity to mental rumination, I realize perhaps this all might just be much too much to contemplate while making myself just a little bit of lunch in Nana Claires yellowware bowl.