Baking my past into my future


Rose Melnik Holy Redeemer High School Cafeteria 1973

The older I get the harder it is to remember the facts about any given event in any sequential order or specific chronology.  However, the things I do remember become qualitatively measured and then quantitatively recollected.

Remembering my mom doesn’t happen without falling into a mouth watering trance wrapped in the smells and flavors of her kitchen. I say her kitchen, because her essence undeniably possessed it.  I vividly recall the one time I allowed myself to let it invade me. This was several years after she had passed away. I was caught off guard visiting the high school kitchen she worked in for many years as a professional, “cafeteria lady”. Crossing the threshold into the room I was hit by this warm embrace, then tearful sadness. I could still feel her, but no longer engage in any tangible way.

The holidays, in particular, can bring up so many food memories. One of the pastries my mom alway made was Slovenian potica. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The sweet, steamy smell of butter, sugar and walnuts would not leave me alone. I had uncle Tony’s recipe which included raisins and apples, thanks to being Facebook friends with my cousin. My mom was notorious for not having written recipes, or if she did she would adjust them to her taste and not write down her adendums.

The only kind of baking I do on a regular basis these days, involves ceramic clay, chemical glazes and a kiln. So thoughts of making potica myself were unceremoniously pushed aside. The memories were not so easily tucked away. I decided I should pay attention and find a way to move forward. After talking to my husband, who makes puffed pastry and breads, I decided with his help we could do it.  We adjusted quantities and combined two recipes. My favorite is this one from the Slovene National Benefit Society.  Our filling required cooking the apples, raisins, butter, sugar and walnuts, until the apples were soft.


Apple, Raisin, Walnut Potica

The results were a wonderful mix of smile producing aromas and tastes. We started eating it still warm out of the oven.

So this act of reclaiming, and reinventing ma’s potica has taught me a valuable lesson. You can honor memory without living in the past. A new metaphor of how I plan to approach the year, paying attention and moving forward. More to come.

About Babs

I'm a narrative sculptor navigating her way through the ever-changing currents in what feels like an art ocean. Whether appreciating the calm rhythm of calls for art and exhibiting, or waiting to catch a big wave of inspiration to take me to the top. I just love being in the water. Formerly a pickle packer, theater major, crisis counselor and occupational therapist with a BA in Communications and a BS in Occupational Therapy, only to discover I've always been an artist. My work grows from a strong connection to people and a passion for discovering the beauty in ordinary things. I sculpt figuratively in clay, utilizing the female form and women’s themes. Frequently my inspiration is drawn from childhood memories and my own short poems. Like each of us as humans every work is uniquely influenced by the past and present and has a narrative.
This entry was posted in gratitude, Holiday, Inspiration, life and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Baking my past into my future

  1. Susan says:

    Barb, What a well written and wonderful tribute to your mother! The photo of the Potica looks absolutely delicious. Susan

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