“We’re going to cook with whatever’s left over.”
My cousin Jen is practical and unapologetic in the kitchen—just like in the rest of her life. If it’s there, obviously one should use it. Lack of creativity is as criminal as wastefulness. So I am completely unsurprised to hear we will be MacGyvering lunch out of leftovers. If we were having lunch at my home, we would be doing exactly the same thing.
Jen’s mother and my mother are sisters, and our grandparents were British immigrants who composted and recycled long before Green was even heard of in North America. In their marriage, and in our mothers’ upbringing, bare-bones practicality warred with pure academic genius. The result was a peculiar mix of skill sets which has enjoyed a striking double-generational reach. Our mothers could not have been more different, but they raised amazingly similar daughters.
We speak the same language. Most of the time, we don’t need to speak at all. We just point and pass things.
She meets me in the driveway, because of course, Emlyn has fallen asleep ten minutes before we’ve arrived and is now snoring in the car-seat. Since everyone knows you don’t wake a sleeping child—EVER—I’m listening to the radio with the engine off and waiting for her to awaken. It’s been 28 minutes.
Jen doesn’t have kids yet, but has taken mine in perfect stride, so she shrugs and gets in the passenger seat when it becomes clear I won’t be coming indoors any time soon. She chats with me like this is a perfectly normal setting. Expresses regret that we don’t have a teapot in the car so we could really get comfy.
Believe me, if there were such a thing as a vehicular tea dispenser, I would have it…
Eventually, my daughter wakes up and we haul her and her kit inside. While I take off her coat and boots, Jen darts into the kitchen to get things going.
It’s not often I meet someone my age who is more adept with kitchen implements than I am, and I am fascinated with the speed and dexterity with which my cousin can assemble and use the Kitchen-Aid. She whips things, layers things, pops them in the oven.
By the time I get in there, she’s already layered twelve muffin cups with red peppers and chicken and is beating the eggs. I don’t even have the chance to don the apron. The oven is pre-heated and the quiche are going in.
“I’ve poured you some tea. It’s in my second favourite mug.”
See? My twin.
As the years pass and we move into similar life stages, I find I am even more appreciative of having my cousin so close in age and proximity. Jen knows my family of origin in a way similar to a sibling would—but she also understands the broader family context. She helps situate me in the world and makes sense of our larger family tree, answering those quintessential human questions: where do I come from? What makes me tick like this?
As Emlyn is an only child, I hope she has the same type of friendships with her cousins that I’ve had with mine. I resolve to give her those opportunities as much as I can, even if it means we have to get creative with driving and cottage rentals.
One day, thirty years from now, maybe I’ll be invited for lunch with her generation of cousins as they whip things up in futuristic machines. I hope so.
Today, the quiche is amazing—obviously. Emlyn eats three of them and tries to steal mine.
I let her. Because everyone knows you don’t steal food away from a hungry toddler. EVER!