I've spent a lot of time in the kitchen the past few days. We knocked out two batches of jelly this weekend (a chai apple jelly, and a rosemary mint lime jelly- recipes courtesy of this book) , and I whipped out some cranberry sauce and a chocolate peanut butter pie for Thanksgiving tomorrow.
Cooking always seems to settle me, and I think it's less because I enjoy it and more because I can feel my mother's presence in the kitchen. Most of my memories of her are of time we spent in the kitchen...making endless batches of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, washing dishes, and her supervising as I tried out recipes from the Klutz Kids Cookbook and the Mandie Cookbook .
I'm not a good cook....neither was my mother. In fact, I cook a lot like she did - I'm a recipe cook, who's unafraid to try new things. Occasionally I can pull together a meal by throwing a bit of this and that into a pot, but that's far more the exception than the rule. I measure carefully, and sometimes I may tweak a recipe a bit, but I'm not creative. And, like her, I cook lots of legumes (mostly chick peas, lentils and lima beans), and try new vegetables often. My dad wasn't the greatest fan of my mom's cooking...I think his exact words were "She was just starting to be a pretty good cook when she died." Either the people around me are kinder (very possible) or my palate is a little more sophisticated (thanks to living abroad for 10 years, and international travel in college+grad school - also very possible), but I use this same approach and it seems to make people happy.
These are the mints my girlfriends, husband and I made for our wedding- the same as she used to make every year at Christmas (except that hers were bells,wreathes, and Christmas trees in red and green). She loved the end of the year. My parent's anniversary was Dec 18, then Christmas followed a week later on the 25th, and New Years another week later, on the 1st (interestingly, we got engaged on Dec 11).
It's been nearly 17 years since she died....she'd be turning 59 in January. "It gets easier" is crap - I miss her more every year.