Cooking Lessons #BlogBattle

This is the first time I participate in the #BlogBattle, I hope you enjoy reading my story!

Genre: Magical Realism

People usually haven’t heard of the town where my grandmother lived. Unless the read their Mars wrappers very closely: in the corner, it says “Masterfoods, Viersen.” Of course no one but me thinks about Viersen while not eating candy. I’m not even sure if the Masterfoods factory still exists. But neither does my grandmother, so what does it matter.

She used to call us children Schafchen, “little sheep.” Not as a descriptor, but as a collective nickname, for all her grandchildren, or maybe for children in general. We probably were a lot like sheep, first walking around carefully as if born only yesterday, then running across the street without looking left or right.

I stopped being a sheep when she taught me how to make her special pumpkin compote. When I was seven, she woke me at midnight during the October full moon and took me to the garden. I was to harvest my first pumpkin, precisely as the shadow the moonlight created was the smallest. The pumpkin was heavy and the stalk was woody, so I had difficulty cutting it fast enough. But I finished just before a lonely cloud obscured the moon. “Pumpkins harvested without moonlight don’t work, Schafchen,” she told me and helped me carry it inside.

A drop of sweat fell on the pumpkin while I tried to cut and carve it. “It adds your essence, Schafchen.” I had to cut the pumpkin by myself, she told me, because that was when its soul escaped and only one person could come in contact with it, just like only one person could add her essence to the fruit. Cutting and carving was akin to slaughter, and slaughter – my grandmother was very adamant about this – was a solitary activity. The meeting of two souls where only one could triumph. I cut my thumb, and four drops of blood joined the sweat. More essence.

“Small pieces, Schafchen. Like a dice. And think about what you’d like to accomplish while you cut. Who you’d like to help.”

Then she gave me the spices to add. Some I recognized from her regular cooking, others from her Christmas baking. But most I had never seen and have not encountered since. The smells of cinnamon, cloves, pepper, comfort, and a time long gone wafted through the kitchen. My grandmother closed the window, lest the essence escape. She steadied my hand above the pot – not a cauldron, as it had been in my imagination. “Just let your hand hover. The pumpkin knows how many spices it needs. It will take them.”

The last and most important part was the stirring. This was where the magic happened. “Now think about the people you wish to serve the compote. Let your thoughts tell the pumpkin your good wishes for them. But remember: no dark thoughts. The pumpkin will turn black and the magic will work against you.”

I thought about my friends. Susanna, who should never lose her beauty. John, who should always remain the fastest runner in school. Marie, who would keep her infectious laugh forever. Jill, whose success in school would continue throughout her life. My parents, who would always remain together. My sister, whose nightmares would stop.

But I was young, I hadn’t considered my grandmother’s mortality. As her brain cells died one by one, faster and faster, the pumpkin seeds turned black and rotten. The pumpkins she planted the next year didn’t grow. The year after that, she no longer remembered who I was, and my mom forbade me to ask for the seeds so I could sow them myself. When we cleared out the house after the funeral, we found supplies sufficient for decades. But not a single seed was viable, I checked them, one by one. They were all black and deteriorated right in front of me. Without knowing, I had cooked and distributed the last of the magical pumpkin compote. It is for the receivers to judge the efficacy of the magic.

20 thoughts on “Cooking Lessons #BlogBattle

  1. This is beautiful. It made me think of my own grandmother. Our special bond was not over a love of cooking (though I do love to cook) but for a love of knitting. She taught me when I was eight, and I haven’t stopped since. This post made me tear up thinking of my own childhood memories. Thank you for this!


  2. I really loved the part about the sheep ^_^ and in my head couldn’t help adding and that’s how little sheep die (not looking right or left before crossing)

    Lovely story.


  3. I lover the feel of this. I felt sad that the pumpkin seeds died with the grandmother, but all things must come to an end. A beautiful story. Welcome to the blogbattle. 🙂


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