Emily hurried to the house, but Anna was nowhere in sight.
"Anna...Anna?" She stepped out the kitchen door calling again.
Anna poked her head out of the workshop. "I'm here, dear."
Anna was grinding barley and wheat for pancake flour, and Emily wanted to try it. She soon found this was a job that took muscle, and her arm was tired before they had enough.
"It won't take long to finish breakfast. I have to fry the fish and make pancakes, and I can do that at the same time. Would you like to set the table?"
"Sure. I'll be very careful of your beautiful dishes." It wasn't a big job because everything was already stacked on the table. "They went to see an old root cellar or something."
"Oh, you should have gone along. It's interesting. I could have waited for the tomatoes."
"I wanted to come back and help you. I like to cook. Mom likes to say I made more mud pies than all the other kids in the family put together. I put all kinds of things in them too; flower petals and things like that."
"M-m-m, yummy!" Anna laughed.
"Now I'm the toasted cheese sandwich expert at home."
"So you enjoy that Emily?"
"Yes, except sometimes I know I am just putting off my homework. I really don't care all that much for school. Hannah and Kellie read all the time. Me, I'd rather be making cookies or outside with the horses."
"Well, there's nothing wrong with that as long as you get your studies done. You know what I would do? I'd find some good books about cooking, or things you enjoy the most.
Then read a few pages before bed each night. You may have to push yourself at first, but once you get a routine going, I think you'll find reading more enjoyable. And, your homework should go easier. It's discouraging if you put things off though. Don't you think so?"
"But can you actually 'read' cookbooks?" Emily looked doubtful.
"Certainly. Many include stories or experiences about local culture or gardening; things like that. Some cookbooks present detailed information about nutrition, that interests me. Often I'm amazed by the photography or illustration used. I've come across recipes where the technique and romance behind them are described in such a way that a plain recipe becomes a superb one. Think about it," Anna said, "doesn't The Bride's Cookbook sound a bit romantic?"
Emily smiled shyly. "I never thought about it. Would you like me to slice the tomatoes?"
"Just be careful, the knife is sharp. Keep your fingertips curved under like this."
Emily knew it was a simple idea. But why not concentrate on the things she was interested in to help her do more reading? It could be fun. Finally she said, "Did your mother teach you how to cook?"
"No, my mother wasn't fond of cooking, so I've had to rely on some good cookbooks myself. She was a wonderful needle woman though, and she handed that skill down to me. I don't know how we would manage her without an electric sewing machine if I weren't handy with a needle. I do a lot of my mending, darning or knitting while Harlan reads out loud for us."
"I can tell you a story about sewing."
"Well, I made a blouse for a rubber baby doll when I was three."
"Yes, three, " Emily declared. "It's my first memory because my mother was so proud of me. I was given scraps of material to play with, so I looked in my mothers sewing box for a needle and found one with some thread on. Then I attached a button. I'm sure I sewed it on wrong, but it held. I remember struggling with play scissors to cut holes for the button and dolls arms. But in the end, it fit my doll!"
"Emily, that's wonderful. That's a gift you know. Why I know lots of educated people who can barely sew on a button. But don't limit yourself with your reading dear. I am sure you can improve with that too."
Their eyes met and Emily believed her.
"Should I ring the bell to call them?"
(Blueish limestone fossil found at Milton, Kentucky)