During the whole month of December in New York City I kept seeing the word HOME. It would pop up in signs on the subway, in magazines, on random doorways. I don’t know what was being advertised but every time I would see the word I would get a little spring in my step and a little burst of energy to push through to get to the holidays and return to my childhood home in Missouri.
My mom has a huge kitchen and cabinets that seem to go on forever. As a kid these cabinets seemed so tall. I remember kneeling on a chair to help my sister make chocolate chip cookies or even standing on a chair to carefully stir something on the stove. I remember the first time I came home on a break from college and walking into the kitchen and seeing the kitchen cabinets. It was like they shrank. Yes, I grew up around those cabinets, but it took going away and coming back to realize my growth. My favorite part of coming home is standing in that kitchen and assessing my development, not just in height, but in soul, and skill, and spirit. It blows me away every time. That room is the touchstone of who I am.
There is a sculpture of praying hands that we drive past every single time we go into town. In a car ride it was always my guidepost for how many minutes until we’d be home. These hands were built the same year I was born, so I feel an extra connection to them. As a small child, this sculpture seemed massive. I couldn’t imagine anything ever being bigger than that. I always felt so safe seeing these gigantic hands symbolically holding my town or at least constantly praying for me and my neighbors. I felt like we were special. It was like our Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building. I figured people from miles around must drive to see these incredible hands. Every time I return home, these hands, just like my mom’s kitchen cabinets, shrink a little bit. Of course they have stayed the exact same size, but my world has expanded. My experiences have multiplied and my imagination has grown. Each time I come home, I’m seeing things - not for the first time - but with new eyes.
During my visit here, I’m splitting my time between my sister Jules’ house and my childhood home where my mom and dad still live about 6 miles away. Jules has an attic bedroom that looks like Peter Pan could fly in at any moment and take Wendy, Michael, and John on an adventure. I call this sweet bedroom the nursery. She has my old Hope chest up there and I’ve been doing some excavating of my personal history. I unearthed journals, scrap books, reviews from plays, and pictures of my first real boyfriend from band camp (Hi Erik Lane, wherever you are!)
I also found Jules’ stash of some of our favorite childhood books! We treasured Mrs. Coverlet’s Magicians. Have you read it? I reference that story in a video I made for StoneRidge Orchards when I cooked Dried Cherry and Chocolate Bread Pudding. (you can watch the video here!) In the story, a bag of chocolate chips fell into the bread pudding batter and the nanny goes on to win a prize in a recipe contest. After reading the book, I went into our kitchen and made up my own bread pudding recipe from what I could gather from the book and added chocolate chips. All these years later, I use the same recipe except now I add dried cherries! It’s like the cherries give the recipe new eyes.
As I leave my home in Missouri behind, I know my mom’s cabinets and the praying hands will appear smaller and smaller when I return. It’s just perspective. In reality, they remain the same and it is me that comes back having changed. As I leave 2015 behind, I know my world will continue to expand and that my imagination will take me to incredible places. I’m excited to get back to New York City and see things with new eyes, the eyes of 2016. Happy New Year to you all!
CHERRY CHOCOLATE BREAD PUDDING
- 2 cups milk
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 eggs slightly beaten
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups dry bread cubes (approximately 8 slices of bread)
- 1/2 cup chocolate chunks
- 1/2 cup dried cherries
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Heat milk and butter until melted and scalded. Let cool slightly.
- Mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon, and salt.
- Stir in bread and chocolate and dried cherries. Fold in milk mixture, pour into a greased or non stick sprayed loaf pan.
- Submerge loaf pan in one inch deep of hot water in a 9 x 12” pan creating a water bath.
- Bake uncovered 40-45 minutes until an inserted knife comes out clean. Serve warm with whipped cream or yogurt mixed with honey.
Food images by Cheryl Stockton of Stockshot Studio