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Strings attached

How an apron can be a powerful thing

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Ah, the power of an apron.

It’s a nostalgic thing in my world: I remember reruns of “Leave it to Beaver,” “Ozzie and Harriet” and “The Donna Reed Show” where the perfect mom always had a smile and an apron. I remember making Hungarian baked goods with my mom during the holidays, and I remember being perplexed: though she had polyester frou-frou aprons from the early ’60s, she never wore them as we baked. Instead, she wore the big heavy utilitarian canvas things that were stained from years of use.

As I grew up into my own holiday baking traditions, I felt like I was missing something.

But I wanted perfection.

I needed cotton so I could swipe my floury, buttery hands directly on myself. I needed style, high style, so I could cover my baggy sweats and look hot (or at least domestically lukewarm).

I found, to my wondering eyes, in about the mid-’90s, a flouncy, floral, frilly, decadent (but utilitarian cotton!) thing by Woof Poof in the Metropolitan Market.

I was a homemaking heroine, and I felt good.

I felt like the kind of woman who could refresh her lipstick after vacuuming the carpet. I felt like it would be apropos for me to accept my husband’s kiss while accepting a bouquet of flowers graciously. I felt like the kind of woman who could remove the pot roast from the oven, whip up a quick Jell-o salad and serve it with Cool Whip, and then accept the highball glass containing my Manhattan, while smoking a cigarette I delicately dragged on through an ebony cigarette holder.

OK, so it didn’t exactly work out like that. In reality, the apron was used for holiday baking, became old and dated, and now sits abandoned in my baking drawer.

Yet I long for those days of feeling domestically empowered with all the she-rah can-do spirit of the ’50s.

At Dwell, I have that nostalgia, and I can own it in my hot little hands with their line of absolute tiered-divinity-in-domestication. These retro dainties combine a quirky nod to the ’70s with a ruffled flourish that would be the ideal replacement for my eighty-ish cabbage rose print has-been; paired with just about any other item in the store, I can feel like a cute homemaker extraordinaire.

But still … I think about my mom’s utilitarian thick cotton apron, and I think of the history it appeared to have. It looked solid; it looked like the apron of a woman who knew how to cook and bake.

I recently saw some serious aprons at Gourmet Essentials in Gig Harbor. Surrounded by all manner of serious cooking gadgetry, I imagined myself a sort of Junior Julia Child and seriously considered purchasing one of said aprons just for the chef mojo it might rub onto my skin.

And then I thought about greeting the man at the door, serving up a Lean Cuisine, and getting The Eyebrow from him. If you wear that kind of apron, you just can’t go back to frozen food.

So then, back to Metropolitan Market. There I find casual aprons, serious aprons, cute aprons, aprons with matching napkins, aprons with matching egg cups. It’s apron-meets-kitchen heaven in a setting where all my wildest gourmet fantasies can come true, from cookbook to natural lean meat, to organic vegetable, to orgasmic cheese, to top-it-off-with-a-smile wine.

Dessert even beckons, so I don’t have to muck with Jell-o and artificiality.

Ultimately, it’s like a kid in Toys-R-Us: too much. I can’t decide.

Nostalgia is all about the basics.

It’s all about the boy in the doorway with the surprise, and the delighted eyebrows raised over my freshly painted lips, pressed into an “ooooh!”

I suspect, for now, I’ll do the “subtle hint” thing. I’ll gripe and moan about my existing apron; heck, I’ll shred the damn strings if I must. I will suggest, off-handedly, that Dwell — and Metropolitan Market, and other places too — have some lovely aprons I wouldn’t mind cooking his meals in.

As I open that box under the tree, I’ll make sure my eyes twinkle, and I’ll give him an extra special Cool Whip treat at the end of the night.

Because some nostalgia can be naughty, too.

[Dwell, 2716 N. 21st St., Tacoma, 253. 761.1889]

[Gourmet Essentials, 5500 Olympic Dr., Gig Harbor, 253.858.7711]

[Metropolitan Market, 2420 N. Proctor St., Tacoma, 253.761.3663]

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