Saluting Mom: Your Kitchen Stories
Just one week ago, I asked for your personal stories about the important women in your life, as part of a Mother's Day tribute. Never in my wildest dreams did I anticipate the rush of excitement and enthusiasm that was bursting open my inbox, and I am truly honored and in awe of the generous, loving spirit that came through in every one of your stories. With so many heart-felt nuggets to choose from, it was difficult to narrow the field of entries, which follow.
There's Sandi, of Attleboro, Mass., who lost her mother last June to liver cancer:
When I saw her last I fixed her shrimp and potatoes - that was June 25th. She even had a sip of wine. She waited for me to leave, and within two days she was bedridden.
...And Colette, of Arlington, Va., who remembers her mother's weekly ritual of making bread for their family of nine in western Pennsylvania:
I vividly recall being four years old and being next to her while she was working in her large aluminum tub of yeasty bread dough (she didn't employ any mixers or gadgets) and me with my tiny aluminum pan and the spare bit of dough that she would allow me to play with.
... And Mimi, of Springfield, Mass., who recalls a friend of her mother's, "Aunt" Minette, while growing up in Memphis, Tenn.:
Each year at Passover my mother made wine and nut cakes. Aunt Minette made a much less beautiful, and much more tasty, homemade gelfilte fish. It was no ordinary gelfilte fish. No slimy in the jar stuff. A delightful ball made of boiled ground fish and matzah meal and other stuff. Homemade horseradish to spice it up. The one food that made Passover really worth looking forward to. "
And that's just for starters.
Without any further adieu, I present five amazing women - and the kids (and grandkids) they produced. Have a most delicious Mother's Day, and celebrate your special lady in the comments area below.
Stories below the jump.
Arlington Va.; grew up in Richmond, Va.
My family is from India, so when I was about 12, I asked my mom what her favorite breakfast food would be because I wanted to make her a special Mother's Day meal. Except, she did not know I wanted to make her breakfast for her. And since she doesn't really like American breakfast, she only suggested Indian food. First, she said she loved Dosa.
Since we're from North India, I didn't even know how to start making dosa. So I asked her what her second favorite breakfast would be. She said it was Aloo Paranta (basically, Indian bread stuffed with potato). So on the morning of Mother's Day, I got my younger brother up early and we got ready to make Aloo Paranta for my mother. Basically, I had seen my mother make is a million times, and I thought we could do it. It is pretty simple of making the dough, with atta and water, and boiling potatoes. Once the potatoes are cooked, you mash them with salt, chili pepper and cilantro. But we barely even knew how to boil a potato.
So we tried our best. The potatoes weren't fully cooked, so I ended up grating the potatoes. And then we couldn't figure out how to put it into the dough, so we made two rotis and made roti sandwiches with the potatoes and then cooked it the best we could. It was not very pretty to look at and probably not the most edible thing. Later on, my mother told me I could have used instant mashed potatoes instead of trying to make the potato stuffing by myself. But she says that she loved it and it was the best Mother's Day present.
Chevy Chase, Md.; grew up as the youngest of three kids in Colts Neck, N.J.
I distinctly remember one Christmas when I was about 10 helping her make the trifle for dessert. She let me make the pudding for the trifle from scratch, all the while guiding me and encouraging me. When it was done, she said "You've just made something that is very difficult to make, many people who have cooked for years can't make a pudding from scratch". What a way to instill confidence in a kid!
I can never remember being afraid of failing in the kitchen- she taught me with that comment and with so many other days of encouragement in the kitchen that food and sharing in the kitchen is love and a way to take care of the ones that you love. Now she is showing my son the same things.
Colchester, Vt.; grew up in Mifflinburg, Pa.
I've attached a photo (Ed. note: Photo is at top of this page) of my grandmother, Kathryn Violet, in her bakery, Kathryn Ann's Bakery (named after my sister), in Selinsgrove Pa., in late 1962.
Sunday dinners after church were times for extended family gatherings of upwards of 20 people. Rather than a kid's table, we got to sit in "the booth", a vinyl aquamarine and silver three-piece set, which was a remnant of the bakery days.
She had two mismatched oven/ranges in her kitchen, and for dinner there was usually a ham studded with cloves, as well as fowl (goose, duck, chicken) that she killed herself. We enjoyed homemade bread with every meal, and for dessert it was not an exaggeration to say we had five kinds of pie, a cake, and always two kinds of Pennsylvania Dutch cookies: soft sugar and soft molasses.
When the grandkids wanted to sneak an extra treat, we would venture into the basement, where she kept a spare freezer. We would steal icing flowers that she had pre-made and frozen for wedding cake orders, and were never reprimanded for it.
Kathryn is coming up on her 97th birthday next month, and in my adult years I had the honor to make and decorate a birthday cake for her. Even though the cooking I do is vastly different than the meat and potato dishes she always prepared, I can definitively trace the origin of my love for cooking and baking back to her.
Arlington, Va.; grew up in central New Jersey
As there are seven children in my family, my mother saw fit to teach us all how to cook - therefore avoiding the pain that she went through.
From the age of two and stirring cookie mixtures to the more difficult tasks of tempering eggs when we decided to whip up our first pies, to accidentally broiling cakes, Mom always encouraged us. Each child had the privilege of being a "cook's helper" one night a week. While we were not always the most willing helpers, Mother always encouraged us and helped us to broaden our cooking horizons with trips to the organic market, various farms to pick our own vegetables, fruits, and berries, membership at an organic co-op, and even assisting my sister and I, who were 10 at the time, in starting our own baking company - which was quite a success and paid for Disneyland, bikes, and allowed us to start saving accounts.
Laurel, Md.; grew up in Pittsburgh, Pa.
I grew up the youngest of three children of Chinese American parents. In the sixties and seventies, my mother faced theâ€¨ common problem of whether to be a stay-at-home mom or a working momâ€¨ and how to supplement my father's income. So, my mother decided to â€¨teach Chinese cooking at the local community college. She was able to â€¨do her classes primarily in the evenings. After two years, my parentsâ€¨ renovated our basement and included a small kitchenette and my mother â€¨was able to move her classes to our home. Up to four nights a week,â€¨ my mother ran classes in our basement for almost 10 years. â€¨â€¨I have many wonderful memories of cooking with my mother and attendingâ€¨ her cooking classes.
As a youngster, the rule was that if I finished â€¨my homework before class started, I could attend her classes. I learnedâ€¨ to cook with her and still have a lot of Asian flavor to my cooking. â€¨I still use a lot of her techniques and knowledge and whenever she comes to visit here, or I go to visit her, we still do a lot of cooking â€¨together. It's one of the things that we do that bonds us together.â€¨ I still have Chinese dumplings in my freezer from her recent visit last â€¨month and every time I make some, I think of my mother.
Happy Mother'sâ€¨ Day!â€¨â€¨
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