Sunday, May 9, 2010
Today is Mother's Day. Geeze, am I grateful for mothers! I am so grateful for my own mom. She is a tornado. I call her the Tasmanian Angel. My parents are old school foodies. They were foodies before being a foodie was cool. They were foodies before there were foodies. My mom comes from a family of foodies, really. But they were foodies out of necessity, not as a hip, obsessive status.
My mom grew up on a farm in Minnesota. With 10 brothers & sisters. My grandpa worked the farm, and grew, raised or traded almost everything that came into my grandmother's kitchen. And my grams ran a tight ship. There was a day for baking bread, a time for canning fruits and vegetables for winter, a day for baking cakes and sweets. This was not based on what was on sale at the store, what she happened to be craving, or a new recipe she had heard of, but by what was growing in the garden, ready for slaughter, or simply what was on hand.
And mealtimes were not necessarily a time described as "eating, drinking & being merry", you ate what you were given. All of it. There was no talking at the dinner table, & obviously no being picky or complaining! But that was life, back in the day, with little means and a lot of mouths to feed.
As the years progressed and the family grew up and migrated West to California, life and family meals changed. My childhood mealtime memories are radically different than my mom's. My parents have always been in the food business, from being the neighborhood butcher, to having their own restaurant. Huge family dinners at my grandma's house had zero resemblance to the strict silence of their childhood dinners. Out of that scene, emerged the loudest, funniest, craziest family gatherings you would ever want to be a part of.
Holidays were always celebrated together. Around my grandma's or an aunties table. There was the kids table, at which I was the low kid on the totem pole, being the youngest of about a million cousins. And then there was the grown up table; a loud and ruckus place where if you said, "Toss me one of those rolls...", you better be able to catch. My grandparents had long since abandoned efforts to quiet this group & had actually even enjoyed it - but they would never admit to such things. My grandpa always injecting his famous phrase, "listen to the mouths!", in the midst of all the chatter.
And then there was the famous pie fight. A gathering that lives on in infamy, a legendary family tale. It was at one such gathering at my grandma's house. Dinner was over and the million of us kids moved on to our own mischief, while the grown ups started their card games and revelry. That's when the commotion drew all of us grandkids to the entrance to the kitchen/dining room where to our astonished, disbelieving eyes, we witnessed our parents, mid pie fight! We thought for sure someone was going to be in soooo much trouble. We waited, jaws hanging to the ground in expectation of my grandparents killing one of their offspring. But as my grandma wiped a blotch of whipped cream from her brow, there was only laughter.
This is my family. My own parents gathered their own children around a New Year's meal of crab legs on the deck of a rustic ski lodge, laid out a spread of goodies at Christmas, and taught us all to love and cook food at their restaurant, where they became "a household name". My mom ran a tight ship in her own way. Her way of cooking rarely involves measuring, but more of a little of this and a little of that.
So when I think of moms, many of my memories go straight to the kitchen or the dinner table. Sometimes to a picnic, or a restaurant. Always, to a woman who provided for her family, loving them not always with spoken words, but with homemade breads, stews, pies, baked beans, prime rib, and even pie fights.
This mother's day, I send my love to all of the mother's in my own family & all my friends who taught me to be a mother myself, and to all of you. May you share a meal, and maybe even venture into a food fight... whatever you choose, may it live on in the stories and memories of family.
Posted by H at 9:43 AM