They call me ‘Betty’. In a teasing fashion – after Betty Crocker. Because at my age, in this time, I like to cook. Not all the time, and not necessarily fabulous dishes – but I can make a mean stuffed pasta shells dish, sourdough waffles, homemade mac & cheese.

It makes me remember cooking with my grandma, “helping” ever so much by banging on pots and pans on the floor. Of her measurements consisting of holding my hand and putting spices in them. “This much”, “this little”, “just keep tasting”. It reminds me of how little time I actually had to do that. To learn the recipes that she had perfected over years of cooking for a huge family, where leftovers were unheard of.

I can’t make her rolls yet. While most of my recipes are easy and quick (or at least are after the third try) the rolls have a certain knack and take a good half day. My mother had to be married to my father for five years before she learned all the secrets – for me to make them now, alone in my apartment… seems wrong. Like I’ve broken the tradition. That being said, when my mother visits I beg her to make them. To make the apartment smell like Grandma’s. One more time.

She left us last February. She was an only child in a family where all of her parent’s siblings had multiple children. Like me. I was the only child of her first born. There was a connection. Even in the last year when she had no voice – her eyes would say exactly the right thing, at exactly the right time. I didn’t go home for her last Christmas. Or her last Thanksgiving. I was busy “settling into my life” 10 hours away. I was the only part of our family to live outside our home state, and often couldn’t get back for holidays – new jobs, new apartments, no funds, no time, etc.

Their house will always be home to me. The one house that stayed the same throughout all my years – a very important thing when you consider I moved about 5 times (always to new states) in about 7 years. Before college. But that house will always be home, the tiny kitchen with the now new cabinets. The glass milk jar filled with peppermints for upset stomachs and nightmares. The downstairs library with swinging saloon doors that always smelled slightly of mold and still, to this day, is one of my favorite spots on earth.

That house will always mean family to me. It held so many family reunions, holidays, dinners. And there was always something on the stove, in the oven. Cooking, for my grandmother, was part of family. I look back, and I’ve always cooked. But, now, I realize it was last March that I started cooking more, actively trying new recipes, digging through her old cookbooks, deciphering her handwriting. Because every time someone I cook, I can still hear her “you take about *this much” as she places ingredients in my hands to measure them out.

I feel like cooking tonight.