Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why I Cook, Part Un

My Mom

My mom is awesome.  I'm saying that because she is awesome, and also because she is reading this. She loves my blog.  She checks every day to see if I've posted anything.  I told her that there was a way to have it email her when I posted something new.  But she said that would ruin it.  She likes checking because of the possibility that something might be there.  Or at least that's what she said.  I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that she doesn't know what I'm talking about.

All of this makes me feel really good because my mom is really, really smart.  She is gentle and kind, a good listener, and a great audience.  She reads all the time, has lots of degrees, and has a very low tolerance for bad writing.  So, for her to say she loves my blog means a lot.  She is also my mom.  And moms have to be supportive of their children.  And sometimes they have to not tell them that their shirt makes them look like a hobo.  Wait.

Anyway, the fact that my mom may or may not like my blog about food and gardening and housekeeping is, to be honest, a little, teeny bit surprising.  I've had many people in my life say, "You love to cook so much, your mom must have been a great cook." "Did you learn to cook from your mom?" "You must have eaten really well as a child."

Well, here it is, in a nutshell.  I wish I could claim first dibs on this story, but my brother can claim that prize.  And no, he doesn't read my blog.  But he loves me anyway.

The Coffee Cake

It was 1993.  It was the first Thanksgiving that I had ever spent away from home.  T and I were a couple of months away from getting married, and we went up to Dallas to be with his family.  I should never have gone.  Not because I didn't enjoy myself, but because I missed the most legendary and epic story of our family.  Well, except for the one where my dad ran over me in a motorboat.  He doesn't really like me to tell that one.

Anyway, my brother, J, has always gotten to have a Sara Lee Butter Streusel Coffee Cake on holidays. I liked the pecan one because it has frosting, but my parents don't love me as much as they love him, so most of the time, they "forgot" to get the pecan one, and J. always, always got to have his Butter Streusel.

Anyway, J and my parents had to muddle through Thanksgiving without me.  I can't even remember what their Thanksgiving plans were, but J. was going to have his Butter Streusel coffee cake regardless.  So, he turned on the oven to preheat it for the coffee cake.  And probably, knowing him, went back to bed.  Afterwhile (yes, that's a word), a discernible smoky smell began to emanate from the kitchen.  J. went to investigate and found, wait for it, the remains of the Sara Lee Butter Streusel Coffee Cake from the previous Christmas.

My parents hadn't turned on the oven in 11 months.

Right Now

Right now, my mom is giggling and wiping tears from her eyes AND protesting that she fed us really well.  And she did.  She fed us whole grains and lean meats.  We sat at the table most nights and talked.  Like a real family.  We had the dearest housekeeper, Walter Lee, who would cook meals to be reheated.  And my mom had a few special dishes up her sleeves.  How you choose to interpret special is up to you, but for her, they were a sacrifice that she was willing to make for her family.

She tried.  She really did.  But my mom doesn't like cooking and never liked cooking, and that's okay.  Just because you give birth to someone doesn't change what you're good at.  What my mom is good at is back-scratching, laughing, reading, smiling, listening, comforting, singing, praying, drinking coffee and reading the paper, doing dishes, keeping her grandchildren, traveling, spa-ing, and loving.

Those are mighty fine qualities.

I love you, Mom!


  1. H - I knew if I just waited long enough, I would read an exquisite ode to K for Mother's Day. LOVE the remembrances, especially the ample-bosomed Walter Lee (fried chicken!), though I'd never heard the tale of Sara Lee's double cremation before! I have a vivid memory of K standing at the top of the stairs, calling out, “Bacon!” to you and J as you left for school: it remains a mystery whether she was concerned about your breakfast protein or was calling the dog! Quite familiar with K's aversion to all things Kitchen, I remember, as well, my shock and awe the long-ago day I watched her make a cheesecake for R's birthday, something she claimed she did every year. Another of the little lights she didn't particularly enjoy shining? Let's face it -- she has an abundance!

    You have so gracefully woven K’s abundance AND every generation’s swing of the pendulum to embellish and embroider a tapestry that is yours alone, but one that joins and warms so many! Thanks for allowing me to giggle and tear up, too — this was a lovely reminder of how grateful I am for my 35+ year inclusion in the warps and wefts of your much-loved family!

    Xoxox, Susan

    P.S. I'm with you -- the pecan one is SO much better!

  2. Susan! Thanks - such a gift to have you in my life! And the answer is probably the dog. Love and xox.