When I cook with my mom and ask about proportions, the conversation goes like this:
-Is this too many ______? (leeks, shallots, etc. (which reminds me of "change the onion, change the sauce.")
-my mother used to say, "the more you put in, the more you'll find."
Apparently her mother also watched cooking shows, and constantly experimented with new things/ways to cook. She'd meet someone at the market and come home with ideas, or become inspired by Mary Ann Esposito's Ciao Italia. This is not consistent with my understanding of who my grandmother was. I imagined her rooted to the spot while the world around her changed, the idea of her fixed in space reinforced by the fact that I did not speak to her; she laughed at my fledgling and often broken Italian, and then as my Italian got better, she got sicker.
So I could write a story about her, the matriarch, in my head, that was unaffected by who she actually became over time. Others' stories about her were the pillars of the biography. Like: Duke, the bull mastiff, attacked my youngest uncle and she picked the dog up and threw him out the back door. Or: someone brought a loaf of bread to their house in the Bronx every week because, years prior, in Italy during the war, she broke the ration rules and gave this man's family extra bread. Or: she dreamed of my cousin, inexplicably, and woke up unsettled, only to learn there had been an accident. In my understanding, uncolored by an actual relationship, she was a kind of Benevolent Sorceress.
When she died there was an untethering, a fall from grace. She had been holding together a network of children and grandchildren that was slowly infiltrating/being infiltrated by a wholly different culture than the one she left and the new hybrid one she subsequently built, and without her centering the circle, the cables holding us in orbit started to fray and break. People moved away, or died, or became isolated, or got sick. I think that sense of her as an immovable, unchanging object made those disconnections more likely. Italian Glinda died and the suture died with her, no one there to subdue the animals who turn on us, or bend the rules of war, or forge a telepathic link when we are in danger. Cut the line and suction takes over. We assimilate.
Knowing that she'd go shopping in the neighborhood and come back with a recipe for Chinese fried rice, though, complicates this. She was a human being who did some things and then died, and some of what she did, unsurprisingly, is not consistent with a story I invented based on not knowing her. And the stories we have written about assimilation and about distance and about foregone conclusions might also be inconsistent with the ways we could live, if we were equally curious.
Is this too much _______? (Pathos, drama, oversharing, etc.)
I hear my mom's voice remembering her mother. The more you put in, the more you'll find.
Today that means leeks we got from our farm in a state my grandmother could never have imagined would intersect her story. Some wine, even (blasphemy!). A vegetarian (blasphemy!) broth, coming together in the kitchen that centers our house like it centered hers.