Baking with Sister Ann Kevin O’Connor
It’s 9 o’clock on a Monday morning in August when Sister Tracey Horan, a Sister of Providence novice for three weeks, has already measured most of the ingredients for the bran muffins she is about to make with Sister Ann Kevin O’Connor, a Sister of Providence for 71 years.
The novice rolls Sister Ann Kevin into the kitchen in her wheelchair and helps her put on an apron. Sister Ann Kevin goes straight to the recipe on the table and gets right to making suggestions about how to begin. It’s obvious she’s in her element.
Sister Tracey shares the result of Googling an alternative to using self-rising flour and Sister Ann Kevin approves the substitute. Sister Tracey continues to incorporate ingredients as the experienced baker gives direction.
“Be generous with the oil,” Sister Ann Kevin says.
“I’m always generous, sister,” the novice replied with a smile.
“We’re altering the recipe based on your experience,” Sister Tracey says to Sister Ann Kevin.
“Yes. So if it’s bad it’s my fault,” Sister Ann Kevin jokes.
Baking and spending time together
Sister Tracey had been visiting with Sister Ann Kevin quite regularly last year when she realized stories about baking kept bubbling up.
“So I thought it would be a cool way to spend time together, and I’m not exactly an expert baker,” Sister Tracey said.
“I thought it was a great idea,” said Sister Ann Kevin. “It would make me happy and make her happy.”
Sister Ann Kevin learned how to cook from her mother and has fond memories of those days.
“I just love hearing her stories. It’s clear she values her family, and I admire her perseverance in pursuing her passion at this time in her life,” Sister Tracey said.
“It’s the joy of seeing what you created,” Sister Ann Kevin said about cooking. “It reminds me of working with my mother in the kitchen. She used to make the most marvelous caramels.”
Sisters Ann Kevin and Tracey haven’t made caramels together, but since last fall they have made baking powder biscuits, banana bread, checkerboard cake — a first time venture for both bakers — zucchini cookies, and now bran muffins.
“What’s nice is that Ann Kevin lets me make my own mistakes sometimes,” Sister Tracey said.
“Yes. That’s how you learn,” Sister Ann Kevin said. “It’s so relaxing to be able to do this and for me to not have to do it all.”
(Originally published in the Fall 2015 issue of HOPE magazine.)
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