IN OUR KITCHEN
I knew that the clean, quiet atmosphere wouldn't last when I walked in our kitchen Sunday evening to study for my biology test. Nevertheless, I sought the company of family around me. So I settle on one wooden Hitchcock chair and opened my biology book to chapter ten, Cell Reproduction. Just as I started to memorize the stages of mitosis, the obnoxious theme song to "All Things Considered" blared from the radio and interrupted me. Although I knew the atmosphere of the kitchen would only become noisier and disruptive to my concentration on biology, I remained in the kitchen wanting the comfort of having my Grandma and my mom near me performing the soothing rituals of Sunday dinner preparation.
The kitchen was dim when I entered so I snapped on the fluorescent lights and examined the room. The harsh lights shone on the warm yellow linoleum. The small, cozy kitchen was painted antique white with one wall covered in emerald green country wallpaper and a coordinating border of roosters and egg-filled baskets. The countertops gleamed white with an outdated gold glitter. The dark brown Melmac cupboards and drawers were carefully closed, but this organized atmosphere would remain only seconds longer.
My mom entered the kitchen abandoning a relaxing afternoon catching up on this week's pile of newspapers and snoozing on the sunny living room sofa. She wore a maroon sweat suit trimmed with navy and white stripes and two mismatched slippers, one a flowered bootie and the other a bare toe slip-on. Her tousled chestnut curls formed a soft framework around her heart-shaped face. Behind subtle wire-framed bifocals her turquoise eyes glanced around the room returning her dreamy consciousness back to reality. My mother emptied a thawed package of round steak and fixed a mixture of flour, salt, and pepper. After she dipped each steak in the flour mixture she sizzled them in a frying pan.
My grandma pushed herself out of the comfortable rocker where she watched the afternoon football game and roamed into the kitchen after Mom to assist with the dinner preparations. When Grandma arrived, four modest sized potatoes perched on the counter waiting for Grandma's industrious preparations. Grandma snatched the potatoes eagerly, desiring a job to entertain her impatient hands. After washing them, she peeled off its ugly skins into a garbage container attached to the inside wall of our cupboard door.
Mom's eyes brightened excitedly as she approached her favorite stage of dinner preparations. She scrambled through a large drawer jam-packed with kitchen utensils to find her prized possession, the meat hammer, one she used more for musical entertainment then cooking purposes. The musical concert opened with Mom's untrained voice singing, "I love you, a bushel and a peck." The performance grew more intense when she added the skilled rhythm of her meat hammer. A satisfied smile sneaked upon her lips as she performed.
The same smile didn't curve my father's lips as he strained to hear his favorite television program, "Motor Week." Instead, his eyebrows narrowed in frustration, as he sauntered to the TV to increase the volume. (There were no remotes as of yet). This rebellious action unfortunately would only cause Mom to sing and pound louder.
When my Springer Spaniel, Cinder, woke from her afternoon nap to the sounds and smells of dinner preparation, she perked up her curly black ears and inhaled the delicious aroma of meat and gravy. After the dog arched her back and rose to her feet sleepily, she followed her nose to the cooking food. As usual, Cinder marked her post directly beside Mom where Mom was now slicing bananas for a fruit salad. The dog began her begging exercises by raising her eyebrows and enlarging her big, brown, sad eyes.
Pitying her act, my mom nearly always surrendered to Cinder's flirtation. Cinder panted desperately as she leaped on her back paws to view the scraps. Growing more hungry, she cleared her throat with a low growl to engage Mom's attention. Impatiently, she articulated her desire in loud yelps. Mom finally gave into her antics and threw her a few slices of banana, a snack Cinder enjoyed immensely.
The meat sizzled in the frying pan. The delicious aroma tickled my nose and made my stomach growl with anticipation. Grandma drained the cooked potatoes and mashed them vigorously to a fluffy perfection. Mom added milk to the meaty flavored crust which lined the frying pan making the same gravy my Grandma made for her family in 1920. After I cleared out my studying materials and set the table, Mom and Grandma served the meal.
The family scrambled to the table to taste the pleasurable results of Sunday evening preparations. The tender seasoned meat melted in my mouth and satisfied the aching empty space in my belly. My taste buds did a dance of appreciation. My heart, and stomach, would always reserve a special place for those delicious Sunday dinners.