Saturday, May 7, 2011

An Edible Upbringing

It seems that most of my childhood food memories blend together into a big blur of taste, smell and experience.  Not because they weren't special or because there were so few of them, instead it is exactly the opposite. Food was a constant in my life and my family, it was always there being prepared, often from scratch, as the central focus not only to large family gatherings, but also the nightly gathering of my own little universe.  It was not until I was older that I really grasped how special it was that I spent every evening with my family around the dinner table.  I credit this with my love of food and cooking, and also my ability to be a good listener and to engage in lively (often political) conversation.  I didn't realize until I was in high school that all my friends were not going home to dinner when I was, I just thought this was what families did.  I had many rebellious stages but not sitting at the dinner table was never one of them.  Even when I figured out that there was all this action going on when I went home for dinner, I still did not try to get out of this nightly ritual.

My mom and I @ my wedding shower
I am lucky enough to have a mom that takes pleasure in cooking, though I can assume there were plenty of those nights that she would have rather ordered a pizza or stuck something in the microwave. It was important for her to gather our family around the table, and I think the act of making dinner was also a winding down from the work day for her, her way of leaving that world and entering the one at home.  Whatever her motivation for it, I can easily say that this was one of those things that hugely affected who I am, and for the better. 
It was pretty rare, in my early days of figuring out how to cook for myself, that I did not call my mom mid cooking with some edible dilemma that I needed her to fix.  I will still call her over googling my quandaries, knowing that her answer will probably be better.   I have gotten to the point that I am pretty confident in the kitchen, though I still hold my mom to this standard that I can’t imagine myself reaching.  I do not yet have the ability to open the fridge, and not matter what is in there, put a full meal on the table.  If I realize that I am missing an ingredient half way through a recipe I will often go get it at the store, though I am sure my mom would know a replacement.
1st time grilling this season
Early last month my parents came for their first California visit, and I was thrilled to be able to show them this place I have chosen as my home.  Of course much of the visit was spent concerned with food, either in the deciding, procuring, cooking or eating format.  My mom and I had the pleasure of cooking together as equals, possibly for the first time.  We have cooked together many times, but usually with me asking her tons of questions, and lacking confidence while in the kitchen with her.  This time around I was pleased to know a few things that she didn’t, and to impress her with the quality some of the ingredients that we have here.  Though she will always be a few (or lots of) steps ahead of me in the kitchen it was a pleasure to know that I could hold my own, and I think that she enjoyed it just as much.
A meal made by my mom and I
We take away a lot of things from our upbringing, some of them we realize and many of them we don’t.  I know for certain that without those nightly meals I would be a very different person, and I wonder if I would take as much pleasure from food as I do.  I hope that many of you were as lucky as I was in these nightly dinners, and if you weren’t I hope you are doing your best to introduce them into your lives.  I can promise you that it is worth it.
Happy Mothers Day to all you moms, I hope you all have a wonderful and relaxing day, preferably with someone else fixing you a great meal. 


  1. I woke this morning feeling a bit melancholy due to lack of sunshine and distance in miles between me and my children. Not sure how to express my feelings upon reading my daughter's food blog on this Mothers' Day. It was like the feeling one gets inside from a big hug only minus the arms.
    When Jess & Aaron were little they would burst through the door every night to the smell of dinner being prepared. First thing they would say even before a hello, is what's for dinner?
    I just knew this was the right thing for my house and not something I looked on as a chore. However, I must admit not all meals were good.
    It has been my pleasure to cook daily for my family and an empty plate was always enough for me.

    I'm so proud of you Jess and the woman you've become. You are strong and sensative, two important ingredients for a happy life. OH! And you were smart enough to choose Rob to be by your side in the kitchen.

  2. Nice one..Am just an amateur cook and till date my mom has been cooking for me..But in the last few months things have changed where ( I think) I ve got much better and hope to cook something delicious for her and pamper her like she used to do for me.. :)