After my recent post on broccoli stalks my Mom commented that she likes to eat them as well. Peel and eat, crunchy and sweet! Amen, Mom. It occurred to me that I wasn't surprised to hear this, not at all. In fact I think my appreciation for oddball foods was picked up from her along the way.
Growing up we ate the cores of apples, the bed of lettuce an appetizer is served on or the garnish it comes with (hey! They're just going to throw it away!). I have a distinct memory of my first taste of mushrooms, which my mom had sauteed with black pepper for a snack one afternoon. We ate them straight out of the pan and they were so unusual to me, so good.
All of these memories came flooding back to me with my Mom's comment about broccoli stalks; in perfect timing for next week which will see both her birthday and Mother's Day. Thinking about those early food habits got me thinking about other food memories and traditions we share.
We're almost always on the same page in restaurants, most often opting to split a salad and a burger.
Mom is the one who taught me, at the walk-up window of our local Friendly's, that a glass of icy cold bubbly sparkling water is the perfect thing to cut through and wash down all that ice cream. Sweet, creamy ice cream followed by a sip of clear, dry, bubbly water. Try it. Oh, I could go for it right now.
It was at a Friendly's that I once sat, about age 11, with my mom, grandmother, and pregnant aunt talking over the $1.99 breakfast about the newest baby on the way. The christening, whether it would be a boy or a girl, what all our (infamous) sixth senses told us it was, what my uncle would say if it was a boy and he were dressed in a "gown" for the christening. I remember how happy I felt that I got to be part of this grown-up conversation.
I remember sitting on my Gramma's breezeway one sunny day as the adults came up with menu plans and shopping lists for the week we were going to rent a house on the Cape. I remember the subsequent trips in following years, the creaky floorboards, relatives sleeping in every available bed, the outdoor showers, the spaghetti dinners, the tiny boxes of "sugar cereal" we relished as a special treat. I think about all this when I plan my own spaghetti dinners in rented beach houses with my husband and friends. And I still get a kick out of my Mom occasionally bringing me a 12 pack of tiny cereal boxes, a twinkle in her eye. The raisin bran is still the last to go, in case you're curious.
There was a restaurant we sometimes went to called the Russian Tea Room, where I absolutely adored ordering a dish of fruit salad for lunch. I have no idea why it was called the Russian tea room, because as I recall it was located in (near?) a little strip mall in our small, suburban Massachusetts town and I don't remember anything particularly Russian about it. But oh how I loved going there for a special girls lunch with my Mom. I distinctly recall the fruit salad being served in a parfait dish, with a scoop of sherbet on top. At some point the restaurant changed ownership and the sherbet disappeared, replaced by a black olive. We started going less after that. I still love fruit salad, but how do kids get away with eating a bowl of fruit for an entire midday meal anyway?
Around the holidays, when I can't always be with my Mom, it's not necessarily thinking about the big family gatherings that get me bluest. I miss them, absolutely. But when it's a holiday season we're spending apart, what whispers in my ear on a random weekend afternoon is that I'm not spending it baking with my Mom. Pies and quickbreads at Thanksgiving. Cookies and cakes at Christmas. There's just something therapeutic about being the kitchen with my Mom, mixing and measuring, dusting away flour, and flipping through cookbooks with the woman who taught me that when a recipe called for soda it didn't mean gingerale, and when it called for softened butter that didn't mean melted.
It seems only natural that some of our earliest memories are tied to our Moms and food. There is so much comfort there. Laugh if you will, but I'm 30 years old and a piece of fruit still tastes best when my Mom cuts it up for me. I was talking over the weekend with a friend who'd tried for years to make his partner the perfect coconut cake for his birthday. He spent hours each year slaving over gourmet recipes, and while the results were always delicious they weren't quite what the birthday boy'd had in mind. Bewildered, he mentioned all this to his Mom. His Mom wisely replied "Well, what did his Mom make for him?". You can see where this is going. Years of gourmet coconut cake, and all his partner wanted was the coconut cake from a box that his Mom had made for him. Sounds about right to me.
Mom, Happy (early) birthday, and Happy (early) Mother's Day. Love you lots.
Happy Mother's Day to the rest of you too!
Do you have any special traditions or food memories with your Mom? Anything your own kids have mentioned, or memories you've tried to create for them?