When I was 19, I invested in a very good set of pots and pans.
When they were delivered to the house, my brother – always the joker in our family – asked, “What are you going to do with those? Start a rhythm band?”
That should tell you something about my domestic inclinations growing up. I didn’t spend much time in the kitchen. My sister liked to cook and I liked to read. She was crafty and I was clever. I come from a family of great cooks on my mother’s side but I didn’t share the fun of working side by side in the kitchen when I was a girl. An event this month made me realize that I had missed out on more than learning how to make my mother’s chocolate chip cake or her meatloaf.
It wasn’t that I didn’t learn how to cook. We ate dinner together every night when I was growing up and meals, especially meals like Thanksgiving or Christmas, were glorious. I’m pleased to say that my desire to recreate all the wonderful memories I have of sitting around our dining room table with extended family and friends motivated me to learn how to cook. (That, four kids and a husband with a limited repertoire in the kitchen!)
But last month, I was invited to join a group of women about my age, and in my field, to make antipasto. There were only six of us, but one of the women brought her daughter for part of the adventure and a younger colleague joined in until she had somewhere more exciting to be.
We had a wonderful afternoon chopping and chatting, solving all the problems of the world and feeling affirmed and connected. It was therapy. I reflected later on how lucky my friend’s daughter was to have spent a couple hours listening to us talk. You learn so much eavesdropping on the previous generation. Even our young colleague, before she headed out to her more exciting life, was prompted to phone her grandma to let her know she was gathered in a sweet smelling kitchen with a group of wonderful women.
Six hours of stirring and boiling and we all proudly went home with our half-dozen jars of mouth-watering antipasto. But for me, the end product was just a bonus. The time spent in the kitchen enjoying the company of women was what really fed my soul. I wish I had realized that when I was younger.
Jo-Ann Roberts is an award-winning, veteran journalist who is host of CBC Radio’s All Points West, 3-6 pm weekday afternoons, 90.5 fm. Married to Ken Kelly, they have four children.