When I was young I loved watching my Mother cook. I was perfectly content to spend hours in the kitchen chatting with her, watching her glide around the kitchen. She never used a cookbook and always seemed to know exactly what to do, how much to use and when something was perfectly cooked just by the smell or way it looked. I would ask her questions like, “How did you learn to make this?” or “Why did you add that?” And she would willingly answer every question. She enjoyed having me there with her as much as I enjoyed being there.
My Mother in the kitchen I grew up in circa 1958, with our dog Sandy.
My Mother was not a baker, she cooked, And she only cooked out of necessity. She would always say that she hated cooking. I found this odd since she was a wonderful cook. I grew up in a mostly blue collar neighborhood in the late 50's. My father drove a delivery truck for a large wholesale baking company. My Mother was a stay at home Mom. She was a wonder with finances and my brother and I now as adults, when reminiscing always fondly say, “we were dirt poor but thought we were rich.” That was all thanks to my Mother and the wonderful home she made for us.
Any desserts we had in our home came from an Italian bakery that our family adored. My Father was Italian and my Mother Irish. By all accounts we were raised Italian, my Mom cooked Italian food every week. She learned the recipes from my Italian Aunt who was born in Sicily. I still to this day make those same recipes. The only thing my Mother made was lemon meringue pies at Easter. She made two of them and we would have to wait till next year to get another one. They were gorgeous! She made mile high meringue and it was always pretty as a picture. I remember the first time I made one long after I got married and I was a nervous wreck. Now I make them all the time and all my older siblings love it when I do and so do I because I always hear choruses of, “Oh! They look just like Mama's!”
My Lemon Meringue Pie. Mama would be proud.
When I was ten years old, my sister bought me my first cookbook. I was delighted and immediately made chocolate chip cookies. They were a hit with my entire family. By the time I was fourteen I was baking all sorts of goodies all the time and to my surprise, my Mother loved this. She was my biggest fan. When I grew up, married and left home I discovered I was making my own traditions. My favorite was my Christmas cookies. My tradition was to add one or more new cookies to my yearly repertoire. I would give friends and family trays of cookies for gifts and my Mother just loved it when she got hers. She would always say, “I don't know where you got this baking talent, certainly not from ME!”
My Fruit Tart. Mama would be amazed!
I am a big advocate of bringing your children into the kitchen with you. Granted I don't remember my Mom letting me do anything but watch, actually I take that back. I do remember being the Romano cheese grater. But even just watching I took in so much, not even realizing it. The big difference between me and Mama? I LOVE to cook!! I adore being in the kitchen, putting simple ingredients together to create wondrous things to savor. I am an excellent cook, baker and canner. I give all the credit for the love and talent I have for culinary arts to my Mother. Encourage your children or grandchildren to cook, create, bake and watch, you never know, you may be raising the next Julia Child! When I was in Junior High School and High School we could still take Home Ec. Classes but in many school systems these are not offered any longer. So it is even more important to share these lessons with our children at home. The memories and love alone are worth the time it takes to share a recipe. I am grateful beyond words to have these wonderful memories of time with my Mother. Happy Holidays from Itzy Bitzy Farm.
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