It Will All Work Out: Messages From My AncestorsOct 31, 2018
Photograph by Jim Digritz
November. There’s a chill in the air, but the crickets still quietly chirp in the evening, holding on. Dry leaves rustle along the ground in the wind and the stars are beginning to look sharper and clearer in the night sky. Naked trees seem to widen the sky above. Darkness is longer than daylight now and I am feeling the pull to turn inwards, to reflect and rest. With this, I’m feeling the love of passed family members and friends embrace me.
This is the time of year to honor and give thanks to our ancestors. Remembering and sharing stories — replicating their recipes is a way to pay homage.
I recall the warmth, the drama and the distance. I remember the stories my Polish grandparents would tell me about their families and their grandparents. Stories about siblings, adventures in Jersey City, the ways in which they would cook and share food with their neighbors and the children who were without during The Great Depression.
My great-grandmother absolutely loved to cook. She would regularly prepare enormous meals made up of many dishes for 8 children, husband and anyone who showed up on her doorstep. And It was a time void of modern day convenience: no dishwashers, no food processors, no pressure cookers. Instead, it required presence, patience and above all, love. My grandmother would tell me of the mountain of dishes piled up in her kitchen afterwards.
And once everyone was served and fed, my great-grandmother would take off her apron and go out with her girlfriends to play cards. My father’s side of the family remains a great mystery to me, he was a runaway who came to the United States from the Bahamas when he was only thirteen years old. Leaving his land, he left many of his stories behind, stories of great pain — never to be rediscovered.
So, how do I honor and acknowledge ancestors I have never known? Well, I’m not exactly sure — I am still working on this one.
This is also a very special time for me this particular year. November marks the 10-year anniversary of my move from Jersey City, NJ to Woodstock, NY. A move that wouldn’t have been possible without the help of my ancestors. My kids and I knew no one up here. There was no job waiting for me and all I had was an inner knowing, a need to be here on this land, this mountain. Little did I realize, I was expressing my true Polish nature, Jakoś to będzie.
‘Jakoś to będzie’ (pronounced ‘Ya-kosh toe ben-jay’) is the Polish saying that things will work out — not by sitting and hoping it will be fine, but instead by taking bold action without fear. It is optimism in the face of hardship. It is planting seeds in all soils, trusting that they will grow despite life’s adversities.
Going forward, I have begun to ask myself, what kind of ancestor will I be?
How can I love and share so much of myself, to do my ancestors proud and to become someone the future can look back to for strength and guidance?
How do I not only learn from my mistakes, but apply the lessons learned and then share that wisdom?
All I can do right now is give thanks, give love and continue to create and cook. Because in the end — as it has throughout my lineage — it will all work out.
How do you want to be remembered?
—Chef Christine Moss, The Garden Cafe Woodstock