Baking lets me breathe. Something about cracking a few eggs, stirring up a gooey mixture of delight, and inserting it into the oven allows me the sensation that my hands can create something good, both for others and myself. Mama had me making cookies when my apron still touched the floor. The only conflict was that my enthusiasm for baking did not include, in the slightest, an enthusiasm for washing the dishes. It still does not; you can ask my husband. He is quite the trooper.
My favorite recipe book is Recipes and Memories from Audrey’s Kitchen—a compilation of recipes from my great-grandmother, Audrey Vanzant. She was a petite lady known for her quietness, vivacious laugh, and for once fending off robbers with an unloaded gun. I was named after her, this outwardly stoic, secretly wild homemaker.
A few of the recipes have become favorites, although many are full of “oleo” and corn syrup, which I try to avoid in my healthy, hipster way. But beyond the ingredients and her lovely handwriting, I notice that not all of the recipes are hers. Some are from friends, some from family, some from magazines. Through others’ creating and giving she, too, shared her food and hospitality. Their lives were interwoven and pieced together with stains and tears along the way, both beautiful and messy, like this well-loved recipe book. It is part of her legacy, part of her life given that continues to extend comfort and sustenance long after her departure from this earth.
Our legacies are not autobiographies, long-winded and chronological. Rather, they are fragmented compilations of moments—mostly little ones—that mean something, that continue to give after we are gone. Rolling out pie dough, pinching it into the sides of the pan, and pouring the tart cherry mixture over it, I smile and think of her. My husband will never meet my great-grandmother this side of heaven, but when I serve him a piece of her pie or a stack of her pancakes, he experiences her legacy of hospitality, of offering something sweet and tasty to those who are hungry.
Here in the 21st century, we live in the now … well, almost. We also live vicariously through the portrayal of other people’s “now” with various forms of social media. Constantly inundated with what people are doing now and what people are saying now, it is easy to lose perspective. The present moment is important; it is precious. However, it must not be enjoyed at the expense of an empty future, of an empty legacy. We know that life is short, but we forget. “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom” (Ps. 90:12).
There is a little red box that sits on my kitchen counter. It is a tiny treasure chest of recipes from women who attended my bridal shower and from magazine clippings I have collected. I love that thing. There may never be enough recipes in there for my own book, especially since I am the unorganized type who tosses all the ingredients into the bowl and rarely remembers exactly what I did, let alone writing it down to share later.
And while I would like to become more organized, I know that my legacy, like Mamaw Audrey’s, lies far beyond recipes of tasty delights. It has never been about the food, but about the giving. Hopefully I will be an honorable namesake of my brave little great-grandmother. She knew that life is a gift and that it should continue to give, for she knew the greatest Giver of all. The love of our Jesus is too sweet not to offer to others (Ps. 34:8, Mark 16:15). His is a legacy that nourishes our souls and knows no end (Luke 1:32–33). Hallelujah.
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