I wasn't always such a Mrs. Cleaver. I grew up in the eighties, a contrarian playground feminist, a lover of corn chips and breakfast cereal. At our house, ease of preparation was the primary consideration when planning dinner. We liked to eat, but we didn't have the time or patience for the rinsing, chopping, and stirring that preceded it.
When I moved out on my own and began cooking it never occurred to me to buy an apron. Instead I wore an oversized sweatshirt that got wet and oily. The apron was an impulse buy, marked down to nine dollars in November, because yellow is a summer color. I’ve had it for three years. People try to buy me new, fancier aprons, but I’ll never trade it in.
I love its buttery canvas, tough enough to withstand small fires, a shield against splattering oil, so thick that my teething puppy gave up trying to chew through the strap. I love its wide pockets, which fall just at arm’s length, deep and rectangular so nothing falls out when I lean over the oven. I love the adjustable neck strap, worn long on a hot day over a tank top, or pulled in tight over a favorite shirt.
I spill a lot. My apron bears a record of meals prepared and eaten: Tabasco splashed across the chest, turmeric on the left pocket, red wine spilled so long ago it has turned tan, a new brown smudge (chocolate?) at the hem. My apron allows me to sizzle, stir-fry, and mix with impunity. It is okay to be sloppy, to wipe my oily palms across my lap as I scurry between sink and stove. I mix cookie dough by hand, feeling the joy of preschool finger painting, the cool, thick goop squishing exquisitely between my fingers.
Until the day I lean too long over a burner and set my apron on fire, it remains my trusty sidekick in creating meals and messes.