My life seems to parallel my mother’s in so many ways, especially when it comes to cooking. We both began exploring and growing our culinary interests and talents a little later in life.
In the beginning my mother cooked out of necessity. Having 7 children in less than ten years, I don’t even know how she found time to leave the kitchen! (well, actually, it was called “live in help”) For myself, it was the same, I too, a stay at home mom, was responsible for all the meals in the household. People jokingly commented that I was right on track with my mother…….um, no. 🙂 Although I did not have 7 children, I had 3 children in 4 years. So, out of necessity I found myself making “family (kid) friendly” meals as well, with very little time to do anything else.
My mom, Ruth, was really, really, good at cooking family meals, and naturally with the number of family members, she was also really good at cooking for a crowd. So, in parallel, I found myself cooking many of the family favorites that I grew up with for my family, and since I learned from my mom, it was usually in mass quantities. No, really, I did make everything in mass quantity. (confession…still do) I remember her Spanish chicken and rice, the breaded pork chops, meatloaf, and of course, all sorts of casseroles which usually consisted of some form of ground meat with rice, pasta, or potatoes. So, in both our cases, as the children grew so did our creativity and cooking experience. The extra time and freedom that came with more independent children, also allowed us to gather inspiration from outside media sources such as television and newspaper food features.
Our family grew up watching public television and it was about the time when cooking shows started to make an appearance that my mom’s curiosity and creativity began to blossom. She watched all of the cooking shows and I grew up watching many of them too. Julia Child, Lidia Bastionich, Yan Can Cook, The Frugal Gourmet, Jacques Pepin, Pierre Franey, and soon to follow, many more. Looking back, it was really the “French Chefs” who first inspired her, with Julia and Jacques leading the way. As she became part of this “cooking” community, they became almost like family to her.
My mother’s love of “fine food” was growing, and continuing to only want the best ingredients, she would travel to the city. I remember going on these outings with her. To the downtown (Milwaukee) Spice houses, Italian grocers, small specialized shops, and to the kitchen supply shops. I remember all of the fresh cheese and meat assortments in the cases, and specialty gourmet foods. Everyone welcomed the chance to start educating my young mind. I remember the clerks allowing me to smell all the different herbs and spices in the spice shop. My first time seeing fresh feta and having it explained how it is stored in the briny water. How and why meat is aged, etc.
And finally, her dedication of using only the finest ingredients and insisting that everything be made from scratch, ultimately lead her down the path of gardening. (I think watching shows like “The Victory Garden” helped too). Gardening actually became just as big of a passion to her as her cooking, but for now, this blog is all about food and cooking. I will continue to share my stories and memories and “parallels” between my mother, my family, and I…….And so it begins. The journey. My cooking journey, following in my mother Ruthie’s footsteps. Thanks for reading!