I wish this photo was in color. It was from the 1950’s and it was my favorite place in the world. This was a bright red metallic stool, the kind with pullout steps; the kind that mainly show up now at flea markets and yard sales.
It sat in my home between a kitchen window and a wonderful gas stove. From this view, I watched my beloved grandmother work her magic.
Watching her move from sink to stove; from food-prep to simmering pots and cast iron skillets, I was a captive audience. There were no recipe cards, no illustrated cookbooks; she had a way with food that came from a lifetime of practice.
My favorite time with her was early Sunday morning. This was her baking time. She would wake early, I would follow her down the creaking stairs to take my position on the red stool.
She would be covered in flour as she kneaded bread dough and rolled out strudel dough on the wooden kitchen table. Her rolling pin was special. It was about 2 inches in diameter but was over 3 feet wide, enough to cover the surface of that amazing pastry, which was as thin as paper, and about to be covered in melted butter, cinnamon, spices and sliced apples.
I can still remember the smell of the yeast as dough slowly rose on every available surface in that massive kitchen.
It was the beginning of a lifetime of baking that I was to take up myself. They say the best cooking lesson is done by osmosis; just being in the presence of someone who did it so well.
For that, and so many other loving memories, I have to thank my grandmother. And that lovely red stool.
If I had known how important it was in my life, I would have rescued it from the family basement long before it had a chance to rust. Sigh….