COUNTRY CONNECTIONS: Moms dish up a large helping of love
Cooking and baking for my family is one of my joys as a mom. I take pride in preparing healthy, flavorful food for my husband, sons and daughter and love to pore over recipes. I have a cupboard full of cookbooks and a box overstuffed with recipes...
Cooking and baking for my family is one of my joys as a mom. I take pride in preparing healthy, flavorful food for my husband, sons and daughter and love to pore over recipes. I have a cupboard full of cookbooks and a box overstuffed with recipes, but that doesn't stop me from subscribing to a cooking magazine.
So I was delighted when Cooking Light, one of my favorite food magazines, in its May issue, interviewed four famous chefs and asked them to recall a few of the best dishes their mothers used to make. The chefs' favorites varied from rubbed pork with apricot glaze and sauerkraut, to lemon cake to braised short ribs.
Although, I've never made any of those dishes, I can relate to the feelings they stir up in the chefs. Some of my best childhood memories of times spent with my own family are centered around food; summer picnics, holiday gatherings, harvest lunches and just plain, old family meals.
Like most children I never thought much about the effort on my mom's part to plan, coordinate and cook those meals. They somehow just magically appeared, were consumed in a flash and the dirty dishes and a few crumbs were the only evidence that remained.
Now that I'm an adult, I marvel at how my mom could, seemingly effortlessly, and most often, single-handedly, prepare those huge spreads while still managing day-to-day family and farm responsibilities. Each year when I'm flying around the kitchen trying to cook and organize Thanksgiving dinner, I am in awe as I recall earlier years when the sunflower harvest was delayed and my mom prepared a meal for 25 people in between helping my dad and brother juggle trucks from field-to-field.
Reading the Cooking Light article got me to reminiscing again about the love that moms put in to meal making and about some of my own favorite dishes.
The first one that comes to mind is lemon meringue pie. My mom made pie every single day of the week and they were all good, but that's the one that still can make my mouth water when I think of the delicious combination of flaky crust covered with tangy lemon pie filling topped with sweet meringue.
Another beloved dessert was my mom's homemade angel food cake. No box mixes for her. She whipped 12 egg whites into a foam with a wire whisk. I still can smell the aroma wafting from the oven and the eager anticipation I felt when she placed the finished cake on a long-necked bottle of 7-Up to cool. Most of all I can taste the sticky, delicious crumbs that I got to scoop off the edge of the pan after she had removed the cake. If I was lucky, I had a little dishful of the crumb mixture to relish a spoonful at a time.
Speaking of spoons, chocolate frosting was a favorite of my dad and me and we used to take turns scraping the sauce pan after my mom had finished spreading the frosting on the brownies.
It wasn't just desserts, though, that my mom was a master at making. Her barbecued ribs, made with a sauce consisting of "a little of this and a little of that" are better than I've ever had in any restaurant and her roast beef dinners with mashed potatoes and gravy (I still ask her to make gravy when she comes to my house for dinner) are the stuff of which food legends are made.
As far as meals, though, my most beloved is the birthday party lunch she made every year when I was in elementary school. The menu always was the same: Applesauce-cinnamon Jell-O with artificial whipped topping, sloppy Joes made from a recipe in the Farm Journal children's cookbook and chocolate birthday cake. Obviously, it wasn't a fancy meal, but it was made lovingly by my mom. If she got tired of making the same thing year after year for me, then later for my younger sister, Bonnie, she never complained about it.
It's the way that my mom prepared the food for our family with selfless love that is the thing I recall and appreciate most when I think of my favorite meals. In the small picture she was sustaining our family. In the bigger picture she was fulfilling one of the beatitudes. My thanks go to her and to all mothers who do the same.
Happy Mother's Day.