Guest Post: Elizabeth

March 23, 2012

**Hi beautiful readers! By now, I’m probably drooling in my soup, mainlining some lovely pain pills to make me GoofGirl.  The lovely Elizabeth Grant Thomas offered to sit in for me today, so please give her a warm welcome. And thank you Elizabeth, for coming to my aid!

Starting Over, A Different World, Back in the Kitchen
by Elizabeth Grant Thomas

There were many things that were difficult in the ragged weeks following the birth of my daughter, Abra, a year and a half ago, but the hardest was not having the energy to spend time in the kitchen.  My best friend, Heidi, stayed for a few weeks following Abra’s delivery, during which time she managed all aspects of kitchen duty.  Heidi would tell you that she doesn’t consider herself much of a cook – I was alarmed, for example, to discover that she was using a can in lieu of a rolling pin and a ceramic baking dish in the absence of a muffin tin – and she was nervous at the prospect of being the one to prepare my meals.  But I was grateful when turkey sandwiches would magically appear by my side in the overstuffed chair that I seemingly lived in during those early days.  Over the course of the hundreds of hours I spent nursing my newborn baby, I barked directives to the kitchen from my “command station” in the living room, quite literally providing armchair guidance on such tasks as how to blanch tomatoes and melt chocolate over a double boiler.   At a time when I felt completely inadequate, it was a relief to demonstrate my competence for something.

My adjustment to motherhood was rocky.  I quickly discovered that I was wholly unprepared for the persistent demands of a newborn, and the highlight of my day was often the meals that friends dropped by when Heidi wasn’t cooking, the next best thing to being in the kitchen myself.  While my fellow mothers were documenting their newborn’s every move I was fastidiously recording what we ate.  Looking back, Abra’s baby book tells me that we dined on fresh-grilled fajitas, hand-made Chicago-style pizza, steaming chicken pot pie, fresh corn from the farmer’s market, pasta studded with local sausage, new-crop green chile stew, and homemade blueberry pie.  The daily log I kept of my daughter’s first year tells me as much about our culinary life as her development, the meals we ate a beacon of light during another otherwise dark time.  My recollections of Abra’s first three months on this earth are hazy and obscure, but the meals we ate are a touchstone of memory, pinpoints of light piercing the darkness.

The day before I went into labor I was possessed with the urge to make a butterscotch pie.  It was the dog days of a sweltering New Mexico summer and I stood over the stove, rivulets of sweat beading down my face, transforming sugar and milk into a velvety filling, a particular alchemy.  It was a time-intensive task, and as the household buzzed around me I was left alone with my thoughts in the fading hours of what I would soon come to think of as my “old life.”  Even then I was filled with the shadowy awareness that it would be a long time before I’d be back in the kitchen, and even longer still that I’d have the time to make something as laborious as homemade butterscotch.  That pie was the line in the sand, marking the invisible boundary between two impossibly different worlds.  It was shocking to discover how quickly life can change, and when I returned home from the hospital a few days later with another human being I could scarcely believe I’d ever had another existence.  But there was the evidence in the refrigerator:  a sad triangle of pie slumping atop a soggy crust, the afternoon I spent making it already a distant memory.

Amongst the milestones recorded, my daughter’s baby book details my first foray back into the kitchen after her birth.  Late one afternoon I shuffled into the kitchen still wearing my nightgown from the day before, my head a tangled web of gnarled hair.  Heidi hunched over the counter studying a cookbook, brow furrowed in concentration, looking a little confused as to what, precisely, she should be doing.  Before I knew it I was tracing my fingers over the recipe, stirring a pot and finely dicing onions alongside her.  As we cooked and talked, Heidi said, “You know how I know you’re feeling like yourself again?  You’re back in the kitchen.”  I hadn’t realized until that moment how cranky and disconnected I’d felt being consigned to the living room, a few feet and a lifetime away.  A little like a bear emerging from hibernation, my return to the kitchen felt like a reawakening, a place where I could relearn the rhythm of life and embrace its familiar patterns amidst so much chaos and uncertainty.

There are many seasons of our lives, but spending time in the kitchen is something that has seen me unwaveringly through them all.  It has ushered me through my sorrows and my triumphs.  It has helped me to untangle difficult problems, my hands performing the delicate magic that my mind cannot.  It has provided constancy when my life was blown to bits.  Somehow my kitchen knows just what I need, yielding the space to be exactly who I am in that moment in time.  Even when I have stepped away, seemingly forsaking it, my kitchen is always waiting there for me when I return with open arms.

Cooking has taught me how to start over again.

Elizabeth Grant Thomas write and blogs regularly for Edible Santa Fe, where she is currently documenting her family’s journey “back to the table.”  You can read more of her work at her website,

Hyperlink for Edible Santa Fe:
Hyperlink for my site:

Butterscotch Cream Pie
From Baking Illustrated

I love pie, and although you can use your favorite crust recipe to cradle the velvety filling I exhort you to NOT use a store-bought crust.  Please.  What makes a pie is a good crust, and you’ll be cheating yourself if you use anything other than a homemade one in this recipe.

1 prebaked pie crust, fully baked and completely cooled

¼ cup (1 ounce) cornstarch
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup evaporated milk
5 large egg yolks
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup packed (7 ounces) light brown sugar
2 cups whole milk
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream Topping:
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  1. Using your favorite pie crust recipe, bake and cool crust completely.  You can use a “standard” pie crust or a graham cracker crust.
  2. Dissolve the cornstarch and salt in the evaporated milk; whisk in the egg yolks and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the butter and brown sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat until an instant-read thermometer reads 220 degrees, about 5 minutes.  Gradually whisk in the milk.  Once the sugar dissolves completely, gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture.  Continue cooking until the mixtures comes to a boil; cook 1 minute longer.  Turn off the heat, then stir in the vanilla.  Pour the filling into a shallow pan, such as a pie plate.  Put plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming; cool until warm, 20-30 minutes.
  4. Pour the filling into the cooled, prepared pie shell and, once again, place a sheet of plastic wrap on the filling surface.  Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 3 hours.
  5. When ready to serve, beat the cream and sugar in the chilled bowl of an electric mixer at medium speed to soft peaks; add the vanilla.  Continue to beat to barely stiff peaks.  Spread the whipped cream over the filling and serve immediately.

{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Contemporary Troubadour March 23, 2012 at 7:57 pm

It is fascinating what grounds us when life turns itself on its ear. I love how you chart this moment of transition — a pie, a baby book turned food log, dicing onions. The finality of that pie in the making and its transformation/relegation in its leftover state is haunting. Glad Kitch invited you to guest post!


Kate March 24, 2012 at 2:11 pm

Oh, this was beautiful, read through bleary eyes. My littlest is one month. And, for me, the hardest thing is not having time to cook. Not that I am fabulous in the kitchen, but when time (and now kids) dictate pasta or hot dogs… Sigh.

I can mark my transition back towards myself by when I bake bread again. I remember it each time.


Ink March 24, 2012 at 10:06 pm

Lovely post!

And sending out the love and healing vibes to Kitch…


Privilege of Parenting March 25, 2012 at 11:13 pm

While you only allude to the blown-to-bits darkness, I was struck by the parallel of bringing a baby into the world, a being dependent upon feeding for survival, while having to depend upon your friend to feed you. Our kids drag us back through our unremembered past, dredging up feelings stored in a body-sense way, like smells that evoke emotions. I wonder if you weren’t healing traumas in this time more primitive than you could possibly recall, the sheer feeling of not being safe at a time before memory is even possible, the sort of unremembered annihilation that circles back again and again until it becomes conscious and then transforms into love and closeness and great food and soul.

Either way, All Good Wishes to you, yours and KW too


Biz March 26, 2012 at 10:31 am

Lovely guest post! Yep, the kitchen is also my savior. It doesn’t matter what kind of work day I’ve had, I feel my day doesn’t begin until I start to make dinner. :D


Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes March 27, 2012 at 4:43 am

I always had my kids in the kitchen with me when they where little babies. Nothing could keep me away from my stove. Now they can still be found there at regular intervals, if only to play peekaboo through mommy’s legs while she cooks.


idiosyncratic eye March 27, 2012 at 1:43 pm

Cooking is so much more than just feeding oneself. Personally, I would recommend a glass, it’s much smoother and cleaner than a tin can! :)


Jane March 28, 2012 at 7:32 am

I feel like a horrible blogging friend for not checking in sooner. Hugs, hugs and more healing hugs to you, dear friend!

And…so nice to meet you, Elizabeth. And what a yummy way to meet, too. :)


Lacey Rein March 29, 2012 at 11:59 am

It just really amazes me how sitting in the kitchen and whipping something up can bring so much peace to my life. Definitely the place I go to relieve the stress from my daily life.


Velva March 29, 2012 at 6:50 pm

The journey of motherhood begins. Loved this post. You summed up how I feel about my kitchen. Thanks for putting it into words for me.



Alexandra April 2, 2012 at 4:34 pm

I love the guest posters here. So intelligent, so well worded.


Elizabeth April 6, 2012 at 1:36 am

Thank you for your lovely comments, and thank you, Kitch, for the opportunity to post. I’m happy my words found a home here! Hope you are feeling better.


Arnebya April 10, 2012 at 10:32 am

This was beautiful, Elizabeth, truly.

It wasn’t until my son was born that I realized just how much I needed my kitchen. The way you describe how the kitchen is always there waiting for you to return? That’s it precisely. No matter how far I stray, no matter how long I’m gone, it welcomes me back. In its space is where I create dishes that soothe and excite. In it I am me.


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