Aprons, Paul Newman, and oh yeah, book covers

The SIMPLY FROM SCRATCH cover is being created as I type this. I understand an apron might be featured; appropriate, as my widowed narrator takes to wearing her late husband’s old grilling apron around the house.

An apron is a kind of uniform, perhaps as much a symbolic one as one born of necessity. What I mean is, I always get a new sense of mental focus when I pull an apron over my head, anticipating the meal I’m about to create.

I’d go so far as to compare tying on an apron to applying war paint — or to “puttin’ on the foil,” if I may quote from Slapshot, which happens to be my favorite Paul Newman movie and my favorite hockey movie. If your approach to cooking is anything like mine, you must prepare yourself for battle, just like a hockey goon before a game.

Speaking of hockey, my first apron was a Montreal Canadiens apron. I bought it at the gift shop at the fabled Montreal Forum in 1991, a few years before that storied old sports arena was gutted and converted.

I also have a sturdy Wachusett Records apron, gifted to me by Benj Lipchak — forever friend, producer of my piano music, and founder of Wachusett Records.

And my mother gave me my other two aprons. One is handmade and based on 1940s patterns; the other — the one I reach for most often these days — is deep red and hides stains, which is good for me, because I’m pretty messy.

So, I’m curious: What does your apron look like? Where did it come from? And what does it inspire in you? (Dread, joy, creativity? Or …?)

~Alicia Bessette

My vintage apron ... thanks, Mom!

25 Replies to “Aprons, Paul Newman, and oh yeah, book covers”

  1. Hi Alicia,

    when I was a child (in the early 1960s)we had to wear aprons at school e.g. in subjects like gardening and crafts. These were most with colourful pictures of tools and vegetable.
    As a young housewife I used to wear overall aprons all day at home like a “uniform” and that’s why I can’t stand them today.
    But we have a special apron as necessary equipment for our school cooking club which I organize.
    You can see our logo – a picture of Albert Schweitzer wearing a cook’s hat and the letters KO-BA-NA standing for cooking, baking and trying.
    Most children like them because our cooking lessons with about 10 or more children in the kitchen are often a real battle.It is so interesting to see how they learn simple things like separating the egg white from the yolk or using hand-held blendars.
    Then our aprons are really useful because they protect the whole child!
    And I wear one, too because you never know what happens when children are active in the kitchen ;).

  2. I don’t have an apron, but I do have a writing sweater – and I feel like it gives me that sense of focus. It’s nice to have that kind of ritual.

    I cannot wait to see your cover!!!!!

  3. My go-to apron was made by my daughter’s kindergarten class as a “thank you for volunteering” gift. On it the teacher traced circles and in each circle the students drew their faces. The names of the students in the class are written under their faces! SO CUTE and a walk down memory lane for my daughter when I wear it!

  4. My apron is plain red, and I bought it on impulse in Ikea because it was cheap and I felt like I should own an apron. Even though the kitchen is a solitary place, I feel like wearing an apron makes a statement (to whom? I don’t know) about one’s personality. Fun designs = fun personality. Every time I put on my boring red apron I feel repressed and think about how I wish it was more inspired so I can break free in the kitchen. Maybe tonight I’ll stop by Williams Sonoma… I love your vintage apron!

  5. I’m with you Kathy…don’t own a single one…hhhmmm! Cooker/baker I am not! BUT…my first project in 7th grade Home Ec was an apron…and from then on I became an avid sewer. Does that count? When I think of aprons I think of my grandmother…or even my mother in law Dink, who wore aprons most hours of daylight as they commanded the kitchen and created amazing things that filled the house with wonderful aroma’s, gathered us all around the table as family, meant we would have left overs to take home and that life was very good. And their aprons were not only used to catch drips or splatters but to wipe a child’s tear, dap a sweaty brow or swat away a fly from a cooling pie. Life was simple…germs not so intimidating. Then there was the apron that my eldest son use to use as a magician’s cape as he stood on a chair by my counter making potions with anything he could find in the cabinets….but that’s a story for another time.

  6. I’m so glad I’m the only one who has to confess I don’t have an apron. Actually, I might have one stuck in a drawer somewhere, but I don’t really cook, other than very simple things like pasta. It’s too complicated in our house: I’m a vegetarian, my husband hates vegetables, and the kids don’t like most of the foods we enjoy. So, we eat a lot of pizza! But today is a snow day, and my sons and I are making homemade chocolate-chip cookies.

  7. Hey, A, you hit a nerve here, unexpectedly. One of my favorite memories is coming home to my dad in his butcher’s aprons (borrowed from his employer; he wasn’t a butcher himself, mind you) cooking Sunday dinner while we were at church. I think I still have one of those old aprons in storage somewhere. They were sturdy, industrial things, really, very heavy fabric, with a bib, of course. My latest favorite is am imitation of that, and came in a matching mother-daughter set that Annie and I love. It’s dark blue and doesn’t show the stains (I’m messy, too!) For Christmas, someone gave me a vintage Christmas apron, red and green, like your mom wore in the 1950s or 1960s (with a pocket for your cigarettes, since EVERYONE smoked); I wore it to make dinner for the future in-laws (probably), and they loved it!

  8. I live in my aprons. Seriously. I have two that I wear a lot, both are new but retro girlie aprons. One’s turquoise with red cherries and red ruffles and one’s pink and flowery (Eileen Cook has a matching one I sent her, but she got the half apron…I have to wear a full apron). I use one of those chip clips to hook a towel to my pocket too. I actually could probably use a new one as I am wearing these out! I also have a lovely half apron, green and white checked, that belonged to my mother-in-law, and a few fancy aprons of hers too. She wore half aprons, so I can’t cook in them, but sometimes if they match my outfit when we’re having company, I wear them and I’m just really careful!

  9. When I was in my early 20’s I worked in a ski shop. When I put on my blue Nordica Ski Tech apron I thought I was the flipping man! In it’s numerous pockets I had all my screwdrivers, pliers, p-tex, wax, joints, you name it. When I left the mountain I passed it on to a rookie.

    And Rennie. What’s the deal with potions? My kids have come up with some pretty wicked concoctions.

  10. I’m a terrible cook, but, when I do venture to mix things together, I have a plain green apron. It’s sentimental to me only because it’s one of a pair I bought for me and sweetie after marriage and before kids, when there was time and energy to keep self and house neat 🙂

  11. One of my favorite aprons has “Grill Sergeant’ across the front. I still have my parents favorites – a red checked half apron of my mother’s & a white twill doubled half apron with extra long ties to wrap around my father’s expansive waist! My grand children all choose their favorites when we produce our cooking show starring , Schmordy Bordy! Good times.

  12. Greg…”potions” as he called them, they were and disqusting to say the least… heavy on oragano, pepper, flour, crisco oil, food coloring, choc bits, and whatever, etc…and mom was always the first one offered a taste! Should have known my creative, aproned, kitchen child would grow up to be just as creative with the pen.

  13. Alicia,

    I have had my apron for many years…normally I only wear ir around the holidays. After reading this, I’m going to take it out and wear it more often. The memories of those wonderful times are as much a part of that apron as the stains. I can almost hear my mother giggling as she fails again to make lump-free gravy. I can already smell a sweet golden turkey.

  14. Hi Alicia,

    I just have one apron and I bought it myself. The main colors are white, yellow and red in squares and it has a picture of 1950’s looking woman on it who is saying “you have two choices for dinner tonight, leave it or take it”. hahaha…. (still puts smile on my face when I read it)

    Grid always thinks of me as not a house wife type and never had seen me in an apron before. So, he came home from work one day and saw me wearing an apron, which was interesting to him but as soon as he read it, he understood why I am wearing it. So, I got a good laugh out of that and he was shaking his head as if I had lost my mind 🙂

    Now, I wear it only when I remember to wear it

    Happy Thursday

  15. I have exactly one apron, it’s a half-apron, that only starts at the waist,and is in the most gaudy, eye-straining shades of red and blue and flowers. It’s nothing I would ever, ever choose for myself but my grandmother made it for me.

    I don’t wear it often because as a half-apron it doesn’t actually protect much. I do wear it when I bake, though, because otherwise I’m always dusting flour of my hands onto my actual clothes. So I wipe my hands on it all the time.

    I covet a bigger apron (because I am messy…) but it would have to have some kind of cheeky statement (like Sogol’s) because I frankly hate being domestic!

    And B., my husband has a Grill Sergeant apron…

  16. I find it funny that you would mention, hockey and cooking in the same blog. I was never much into aprons, or cooking. I did however, once bake muffins – I forgot the baking soda and they turned out like hockey pucks-no joke. They were hard like rocks and had funny little vallies in the bottom. It took years to live that one down.You could throw them against the wall and they would not even crumble, completely dangerous to eat.

  17. So, is your apron supposed to remind me of some sort of tankini? Hee hee. I too occasionally sport the Wachusett Records apron, although Corey has mostly claimed that as his own. Mine is blue&purple strips. Wish I remembered to wear it more cooking, but it comes in handy fingerpainting! As a kid, I had a denim one with a big red strawberry embroidered on it. I loved that apron & kinda miss it – others just don’t really match up. Reilly has a green one with “Chef in Training” on it.

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