My mother loved children, food, and entertaining, in that order. In her life, she traveled all over the world and sampled dishes from many exotic places. She enjoyed all of them very much, but was always most content in her own kitchen. How she managed to feed eight children and a husband, in two shifts every night, I will never know. But she always made sure we had a square meal and a glass of milk in front of us as we sat down to dinner.
Cooking for so large a family was a challenge, and when the kids moved out of the house, it was a difficult adjustment to learn to pare down her recipes for just a few. As the youngest child by a full six years, I remember well the times when shed make a big pot of spaghetti and be dismayed to find only a small portion of it eaten. Leftovers rarely occurred when all the kids lived at home.
Mom loved to entertain her friends. She hosted bridge club luncheons, prepared intimate dinners with one or two close couples, and made large dinner parties with all their favorite people. Whenever she entertained guests, I always stayed next to her. I loved helping to set the table, pass the hors doeuvres, and serve the main course. On these occasions, she patiently taught me how to arrange the food on the platter to look beautiful, to set a proper table, and to serve with style. As much as she entertained, Mom was also a guest at dinners and luncheons. She never hesitated to ask for the recipe from a friend who had created something wonderful. Her recipe collection contains many of those borrowed favorites.
Holidays in our house were never on a small scale, and Mom put forth her greatest effort for Thanksgiving and Christmas. She made lists, refined her menus, and shopped. She baked, cooked, froze the food for later, and cooked again. Some years we had as many as 30 immediate family members on Christmas Day. She fed us all, cleaned up and got ready for the next meal.
It is tragically ironic that toward the end of her life, my mother was rendered unable to eat. So much of her identity was tied to what she did in the kitchen and at the table: mother, healer, friend. To have the ability to eat taken away devastated her. It robbed her of her ability to care for her husband and children in the best way she knew how, and isolated her from her friends. Yet she never complained. She sat at holiday dinners with her family surrounding her and only a glass of water to sip on, and managed a smile despite it all. I understand now that all she really wanted was for us to come together anyway, and that was enough for her.
My mom taught me many things in my life. One thing that stands out quite clearly now is that food is more than an essential part of survival; it is an important part of life. Meals bring people together. They provide warmth and comfort, express caring, and mark important events in our lives. A smell, a taste, a certain texture can instantly bring back memories of growing up in our family, memories that I cling to as I get older. I am writing this book because want to share those memories and the recipes that go with them. Enjoy these recipes, and I hope that they begin to create memories for you as well.
Click on the photo to the left to turn the page.
Recipies coming soon.