What does your apron say about you?
Recently, a friend of mine had her photo on Facebook posing in front of a stove filled with food. She was wearing a classic “grandma” apron, the cobbler style, complete with snap front and pockets for holding tissues.
I told her she looked like she should be cooking at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church festival, which was, and is, the premier church festival in our hometown.
We exchanged LOLs, but I can’t laugh too hard. When I tie one on in my kitchen, I look a little “grandma” myself.
I always wear an apron when I cook. I was raised to believe that an apron equaled cleanliness. Not only does it keep your clothes from getting dirty, but it also keeps any dirt from the day that’s on your clothes (stray lint, or God forbid, a hair) from getting into the food as well.
When I cook, I wear the classic white butcher’s style apron. They cover a lot, and because they’re white, I can bleach out any stain that comes my way. When I’m in serious cooking mode, I tie my hair up in a bandana as well, which always draws a comment from my husband about how I’m looking “extra ethnic.”
This I got from my grandmother, who always wore hair nets in the kitchen and made us wear them, too, if we were going to be helping. Like I said, “God forbid a hair should get into the food!”
While I always reach for a plain white one, I have a wide and varied collection of aprons that fill a plastic storage box in the closet.
There is one true grandma apron, made of floral chintz that covers well down to mid-calf. I call it the “Aunt Lizzie,” because it is the style always worn by my girlfriend’s Aunt Lizzie. There are fancy ones that I never wear because I know I’d ruin them with sauce stains, and an entire collection of vintage ones.
A few years ago, a neighbor of my in-laws passed away. He and his wife had been dear family friends for years before I was part of the clan. When they were helping the couple’s out-of-town children clean out the house and ready it for sale, my mother-in-law issued the call that anyone who could find something useful inside was free to help themselves.
While other siblings debated easy chairs, freezers and lawn furniture, I headed to the basement where the vintage linens were stored. That’s where I found, along with a circa 1950s Christmas tablecloth, an apron gem.
It was small, skimpy even, made of organdy fabric and embossed with red velvet hearts and a heart-shaped pocket.
“I would have liked to have met the woman who wore this,” I told my husband as I held it up.
Quickly, I claimed it for my collection, along with a his-and-her set of barbecue aprons hand-embroidered with a spoon and fork motif.
Another cache of vintage aprons came my way last week when my husband and I went to an auction in my hometown.
The prior owner had lived a few blocks from where I grew up, in a three-story Victorian that sat prominently on a corner of a main thoroughfare in town. She was a longtime member of our church and also served as “the school bus lady,” who made sure that everyone got on and off the correct school buses when the new year began.
My husband, who could never remember her real first name, nicknamed her “Eloise” years ago when he met her. She was well into her 90s when she died.
We sat on folding chairs watching the contents of Eloise’s life put up on the auction block. If the hat boxes of vintage millinery wasn’t indication enough that Eloise had lived quite the life, the three silver tea sets and fancy dining room furniture certainly were.
So when a jumbled box of linens went up on the block, I couldn’t resist getting in on the bidding. It was a mishmash of doilies, napkins, tablecloths, and there, at the bottom, a bundle of fancy hostess aprons, the kind women would wear over a nice dress at the holidays and other special occasions.
I held up one that could rival a French maid’s costume and showed it to my husband.
“Well, clearly there was more to Eloise than I realized,” he said, with a glint in his eye.
I was going to explain to him that these kind of fancy aprons were common for women back then, but instead, I decided to just let Eloise enjoy her posthumous reputation as a femme fatale.
“I’m sure there was,” I replied.