Nana was the first one up in the morning and the last to go to bed at night. She loved to laugh, play the piano for us, cook delicious meals, and bake the best cakes, pies, and even fresh bread! My most vivid memories of Nana revolve around music and food. My first exposure to the songs of George and Ira Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Irving Berlin was when Nana played them on her piano. I adored spending time in the kitchen with her every day while she made the most wonderful treats. Nana never used a mixer. She beat all of her ingredients by hand. I remember sitting with her while she put the finishing touches on a delicious apple pie or sprinkled cinnamon on baked apples, which I loved to eat. She taught me what it meant to be a great cook -- something my mother and I never really came around to being ourselves, but both now have a wonderful appreciation for. Her family came from Alsace, the same region of France as Jean-Georges Vongerichten, one of my favorite chefs in New York. Apparently, good food is second nature to people from Alsace. She made great stews, chicken and dumplings, and other hearty dishes infused with a French and German influence. She always started with the freshest of ingredients and only used the best of whatever she could find. Every day when I came home from school, there was always something fantastic and yummy waiting for me -- which made me very, very happy. When we weren't spending time together in the kitchen, she patiently let me create many hairdos with her hair. I could set part of it in curls and part of it in rollers. Nana never cared how it turned out, as long as we were having fun together, which of course we were.
I was so lucky to grow up in a home where there was always music playing and the smell of some delicious homemade meal. Since Nana lived with us, my mother never had to cook, and that suited her just fine. My mother preferred to do the cleaning. In fact, she kept a spotless and very organized home, something she tried to teach me to do, too.