It’s lovely, how I still dream of her. I’m happy to meet Ma in my dreams and celery cut in uniform miniscule squares on a well-worn wooden board and any kitchen knife. Her hands were always manicured but she never wore nail polish. Her nail length was uniform too. Like the cutting board, her hands are worn from a lifetime of cooking, caring and chopping. Her hands tell many stories with each fine line. Ma wears the house coat I like best. It’s white with blue and yellow daisies. The buttons are a lucid shiny celeste. Piles of celery, a rainbow of forest and pastel green and white, lay waiting. The leaves are peppery and flat. She insisted in uniformity in the kitchen that is. Crunch, the knife moves through each stalk, mechanical movements which are uniform too, dice and move to the side.
In December, Mom and I walked into Roberto’s, our neighborhood fruit and vegetable shop, where I happened over to a mound of pink pods speckled with white. Art by nature; they were the last borlotti beans of the season. Mom held open a brown paper bag and I scooped handfuls of pods into it. We grabbed a soil dusted bunch of celery with plenty of leaves. We never stop for an instant to question why Ma cooked with certain ingredients, shopped here or there and bought celery with lots of peppery leaves. It just was.
Into the kitchen we go. I’m less patient and certainly not uniform like Ma when it comes to dicing, mincing and slicing. I like chunky bits of celery. Split, crunch, crack, cut, I’m in her kitchen chopping on her cutting board. There she is. Shuck the beans, peel and dice the potatoes, put them in a dutch oven pan with EVOO and plenty of oregano. Cover with water and simmer until cooked. Serve with crusty bread.
Measurements are hard with Ma’s recipes. If the beans are in the shell, use 3 to 4 pounds. If shelled use a pound. Peel and dice 4 medium size potatoes, add as much diced celery as you like, plenty of celery leaves and oregano and extra virgin olive oil.