I was very fortunate. I knew the two best cooks in the world, my mother and father. Both were wildly creative, inventive, and passionate about food.
My mother was also a great baker. She would produce cakes, cookies, cream puffs with cannoli filling, biscotti, fig cookies, sesame coolies, pies, and other sweet delights.
Mom loved to cook. My fondest memories are of sitting at the kitchen table early in the morning watching her prepare meals. Holidays, birthdays, and other celebrations were feasts.
My mother took great pride in her cooking skills. As she got older she still could whip out meals fit for a king.
There were certain things that were reserved for special occasions. I would always ask her why she did not make these regularly. Her reply was the same. "They are a lot of work."
When I finally started cooking myself, I cooked many of those "lot of work" things. They were not a lot of work.
When she was in her 90's I finally asked her why she kept saying that. She laughed. "If you tell people who do not cook these things how hard it is, they appreciate it more." She knew how to use applied psychology.
I have my mothers recipe boxes, cook books, and old cooking magazines she saved. She had recipes and books about various ethnic cuisines. Jewish, Polish, Chinese, Italian, German, and others.
My mother could cook just about any type of food.
She firmly believed that providing sustenance was sharing the love. She shared that love every day until she could not.
When dementia set in she became a broken record. Repeating the same things over and over again. But, when it came to food, she was still as sharp as ever. Until the day she died she had a healthy appetite. She would criticize the meals I prepared. Too little salt, not enough garlic, the tomato sauce was too sour or sweet. Or, if things were right she would gloat, "I taught you well."
At left is my mother's Kitchen Aid mixer circa 1940's. It still looks and works like new. Amazing things were made with this appliance.
I have many of her other cooking tools, pans, pots, roasting pans, baking pans, and other specialty items.
I use many of them to this day, even though they are beat up, stained, and dented from decades of use.
All of us have different memories of our childhoods. For me food memories are the strongest. Maybe because both my parents worked. Being around the table was the only time we had together.
We all have different memories of our mothers. They gave us life, nurtured us, cheered our victories, helped us through our failures, and as they aged, tried to impart on us their stores of wisdom.
Today we celebrate our mothers. If your mother is alive, share your best memories with her. If she is departed, cherish the memories you have of her. Share them with your children or someone else.
Whether alive or gone, tell her you love her.
On the same note: Almost one month ago the terrorist group Boko Harum kidnapped many girls from a school in Nigeria. Their mothers should be remembered today too.
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