Chow Town

All practicalities aside, aprons are a connection back to a simpler time

A key ingredient to my daily cooking isn’t food at all.

It’s the apron I’m wearing while I’m baking, conjuring up dinner or tackling unending stacks of dirty dishes.

An apron is a convenience when you need to dry your hands without a towel, pull pans out of the oven without hot pads or get down and dirty when strawberry cream pie filling erupts from the mixer set at super-sonic speed.

But mostly, I like aprons because as a progressive 21st-Century woman, I am also a nostalgic throwback.

Framed in my living room is a picture of my grandparents, Joe and Frances Lynch, in a 1950s public relations shot taken by the Iowa Rural Electric Cooperative touting the modern conveniences of their newly-built all-electric home.

Their playful natures are evident in the photo, as my Grandpa Joe is probably teasing Fran how she’s miraculously whipping up something to eat at the all-electric cooktop without a single pan in sight.

But two things are missing: Joe isn’t smoking his pipe and Grandma isn’t wearing a feed-sack apron over her house dress.

Now, as I wear my Grandmother’s well-worn aprons, I sometimes realize that — all practicalities aside — these colorful cover-ups are a symbol of a simpler time, when I was the granddaughter with the grandmother who would dance around the table as we set it together.

People who know and love me give me aprons as gifts, but it wasn’t until my daughter asked for a vintage turquoise apron stitched with flowers and the country “PORTUGAL” spelled out along the waistband that I knew my secret was safe:

Life is messy, but you don’t have to be a hot mess cooking through it all.

Mary G. Pepitone, a freelance writer who lives in Leawood, writes a nationally syndicated home column and the much beloved weekly Star column Come Into My Kitchen, featuring home cooks and their recipes.