It would be very hard for me to follow in my Mother’s footsteps because I never really considered that was possible. In a lot of ways. Definitely in cooking. My Mother’s food tastes infinitely better than anything I have ever cooked or will cook. She makes it look easy and elegant, it is always delicious, and if she could make it nutritious every time, she would. Her legacy of cooking includes weeknight meals for our family even though she worked full-time, weekend breakfasts even with a day of chores ahead, and holidays and special days in a large extended family which includes several foodies. I watched her do all of this and she rarely asked for help. At least from me. There are far better cooks in the family than me.
She is the fifth oldest in a family of seven children, almost the middle child. Her mother (who was Jewish and of Russian and Swedish descent) ate Kosher food her whole life. My Mother’s father was Irish (Catholic) head to toe, with red hair as a young man, he was the apple of my grandmother’s eye. With this marriage of different worlds as the center of their home, struggling financially, and lots of people around a lot I picture my Mother watching and planning for when she’d be in charge of her destiny!
In turn, I grew up watching and learning from her and instinctively I knew what her standards were, they didn’t need explanation. Some things were a must such as a vegetable and salad with dinner every night, homemade salad dressing. We did not eat boxed foods very often because they contained “preservatives” and there was awareness that those weren’t the best for us and this was agreed upon by my Mother, grandmother and aunts. My Mother worried about my father’s weight and cooked whatever his diet required (he liked the high protein diet the best because he had steak every night!). Except for my father’s diet my Mother made one meal for the whole family and that was it. While she encouraged us to try new foods (especially vegetables, her fondness for lima beans has always alluded me), she mostly made the foods my family liked. There was and still is such comfort in those week night standbys (meatloaf, tuna salad, roast beef, roast chicken, baked potato). My Mother set the standard that we all eat together at the same time, at the table, with no television. We talked about our day, rain or shine.
Today, my Mother and I live several miles apart and we talk on the phone once a week. We talk about food, my favorite subject, and what we’ve cooked recently. I sense she’s both delighted and concerned when I talk about what I’m making because although it is similar to something she would make, there’s usually a twist. For example, her delicious chicken soup recipe – I add jalapeno, roasted garlic and lemon zest! She’s pleased and unsure at the same time. Or when I tell her I’m cooking a new recipe for my dinner guests which isn’t something my mother generally would recommend. When I tell her these things, I sense her brow is furrowed and although she’s trying to sound upbeat and confident, however I detect worry. I press forward but almost always admit to myself that yep, my Mother was right.
I am eternally grateful to my Mother for the amazing privilege and gift it is for me to be her daughter. Thanks Mom!!
Pixie, May 2018