Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Apron for a Messy Cook...

When I was growing up, Grammy and Grampy lived a mile or so away from us on a one-acre country property in front of a lake. Theirs wasn't a grand lake home. It was the simple home of a logger and lumber mill worker, and it was the best place in the world to visit.

When we'd arrive at our grandparents' house, I'd hop out of the car and bound up the steps and through the side-door that opened into the little entry room. There was a woodstove there, often with a cheesecloth bag full of apple slices drying above it. The washer and dryer were off to the side, frequently holding pans of Grampy's rising sourdough buns.

And against another wall was an old pine dresser that Grammy used for storing her kitchen and table linens, and this was where I was headed. One drawer of this dresser was dedicated to aprons. Grammy had lots of them. Some of the aprons had come from her mother, and, others, Grammy had collected herself over the years.

We were allowed to wear an apron when we visited, and I always chose a golden yellow plaid skirt-style apron that tied around the waist and had nice, big pockets in front. Grammy let us wear the aprons as long as we were playing inside the house, but we couldn't wear them outdoors.

I loved that plaid apron, and when I went to college, Grammy gave it to me. I baked many batches of chocolate chip cookies in my dorm kitchen wearing that apron, but, sadly, by the time I left college, someone had taken it.

I posted this not long ago-- my $1 Goodwill aprons.
I also have several pretty new ones my kids have given to me.

I occasionally run across nostalgic writings about aprons and their past uses, like carrying eggs and wiping noses, pockets holding clothespins and string and safety pins-- the 101 practical uses of an apron! I'm not making fun of nostalgia. It's nice actually. I have a nostalgic memory of Grammy and her aprons, and part of the reason I enjoy wearing one is because of my memories. I'm sure the nostaligia has also fueled my inclination to amass aprons!

Aprons seem to have made a comeback in recent years, coming in all sorts of attractive and creative styles. I have some of these really cute aprons, given to me by my children and others as gifts, and I love them, but I think aprons are not always used today in the same way they were used in the past. I get the feeling that aprons nowadays are sometimes viewed as another layer of cute apparel to be kept neat and clean.

And I'm all for cute, clean aprons. In fact, I think they should be attractive (it's way more fun that way), but the purpose of an apron is very practical, very down to the nitty gritty of homekeeping. This is obvious for cooking, but aprons make sense for wearing throughout the day.

Cheryl Mendelssohn wrote in, Home Comforts: "...nothing beats a real apron or smock with several pockets for carrying coins, paper clips, pins, screws, and othe small objects back and forth, for wiping your hands on without remorse, for keeping your midriff free of oily stains and grime, for sticking pins in, and the like."

That part about "keeping your midriff free of oily stains"...

Most of my aprons are skirt-style aprons that tie around the waist, but you know what? If I'm going to splash or spill food on myself, it never splashes on the apron! After cooking or baking, my cute little skirt apron ends up immaculate, and my shirt is spotted with this and that.

Chefs often wear aprons (white!) that reach high toward the neck and down to the knees and all around. I do have one apron with a "bib" that reaches up from the skirt, with straps that go around the neck. My friend, Julie, made it for me many years ago, and I wear it often. It's more practical than the others and catches a few more cooking splatters.

From an old pattern for a cobbler apron.

But even more practical, especially for a cook like me who seems to end up spilling and splashing no matter how careful I am, are the cobbler-style aprons that cover the upper body and wrap all the way around. I bought one of these aprons at an antique store recently, and I'll probably buy more when I run across nice ones for a good price (aprons usually don't cost much). A person needs more than one good apron because a well-used apron needs washing often!

Come to think of it, these cobbler aprons were the ones Grammy wore every day. I think I'm finally catching on as to why. I'm sure that there are tidy homemakers who simply need an apron for an occasional hand-drying or to use the pockets for catching odds and ends. The skirt-style aprons actually do make nice working-around-the-house-aprons, but for messy cooks and homemakers like me, especially when it comes time to get busy in the kitchen, the cover-up aprons make perfect sense.

(I had to smile when I saw
this post at Pleasantview Schoolhouse because it's exactly the style of apron I bought recently. Only the fabric of mine isn't as cute.)

Why, oh why, does every short, little post I intend to write turn into some kind of longer commentary?!