AROMA OF HOMEMADE

first challah

'What smells so good?' asked Cinnamon as she entered the house this afternoon. It was the last day of school before the Thanksgiving break and the last few hours at my place this week. Black bean soup was cooking on the stove and challah bread was on its second rise and ready to go into the oven.

Challah bread is my children's favourite type of bread. We buy it at Whole Foods on the weeks they are staying with me. Today I decided to try my hand at making my own loaf of the sweet egg bread. Albeit my effort at a four-strand braid was far from perfection, the taste could not have been better.

As Cinnamon devoured the bread, she exclaimed I should no longer waste my money on buying bread but should make it instead - every day. I explained to her I have every intention of making bread regularly but every day is not necessary as a loaf of bread can easily last three days, if not longer. I packaged up some of the bread for her to enjoy in the morning.

cinnamon model

Last night I soaked the black beans for tonight's soup. In the past, I have always used canned black beans which were already cooked and ready to use. It makes for a simple and quick meal when combined with cooked rice and topped with crumbled feta. Today I decided to make the beans from scratch which did not go over well with the children.

Dinnertime was a challenge as neither child liked the black bean soup over rice. Sage questioned the appearance of onions and green bell peppers in his watery soup. 'I don't want the water! I want something else' cried Sage at dinnertime. Cinnamon eventually made her way through one bowlful of the beans with rice. Convincing Sage was another story but in time he also made it through to the bottom of his bowl.

Upon return home from school, Sage was excited to show me all of the artwork in the paper bag he carried home. One after the other he pulled the colourful Thanksgiving-themed art pieces out from the bag and explained to me their meaning. There was a pilgrim hat, an Indian headband with feathers, two turkeys, a leaf man, and even construction paper chains used to capture prisoners.

sage pilgrim
sage indian
sage turkey

With the Thanksgiving holiday coming upon us in a few days, much cooking and baking will take place in American households. Turkeys will take center stage along with mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and traditional dishes which are quite different than the Thanksgiving meals I remember having grown up in a Croatian household. Since Thanksgiving is not a Croatian holiday, a non-traditional feast is to be expected but compromise was never an issue. We still celebrated Thanksgiving in our own unique way.

I remember sauerkraut instead of stuffing, lamb in place of turkey. Homemade bread was also present and I was in charge of desserts. Pumpkin swirl cheesecake was my specialty this time of year. Cranberry sauce I did not experience until my college years when I was invited for a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a friend's house. I recall the strange looks as I took a roll, buttered it, and spread the cranberry sauce on it.

The aroma of homemade cooking and baking wafting through the home is something children will recall years later and will stay with them forever. Teaching them how to navigate the grocery stores in search of ingredients for a meal and to cook for themselves is one of the most basic and useful skills in life. With this ability, one has the power to win over anyone and will create memories for years to come.