My mother used to tell me she would drive to Malibu several times a week. She wouldn't stop there, just drive there and back. To relax…to write in her head...to figure things out. She doesn't do it anymore, because of the price of gas, it's wasteful...but every once in awhile I'll wake up early and do the drive myself...watching the coastline as I speed by...I'd pay more for a movie...
When my parents first split up they weren't exactly on the best of terms. My time was divided. I spent way more of it with my Mom, and distinct brackets with my dad. My Mom and I had an easier time hanging out, satisfied with doing nothing. One Wednesday, in the middle of the day, she drove me along the coast. 'Where are we going,' I thought to myself, but I didn't dare ask, for one because she wouldn't have told me if I had, but also because she probably didn't know herself. She stopped at one point and we got out of the car. She disappeared up a small trail you would barely notice, and I followed her up the mountain.
What makes a better Mother's Day than a picnic?
I contemplated this while driving down Sunset Blvd tonight, the big ol' moon silhouetted behind the palm trees, on one of those nights in LA when you feel true glee at being alive in the smoggiest city in the United States (it's true, it was listed today).
Think about this:
A roast chicken, some hummus (lovingly made, in our case, by the Maharishi, a true Lebanese purist when it comes to the blending of garbanzo beans, garlic, lemon juice, tahini and olive oil), some Arabic bread, some bright, sweet, red tomatoes, a punnet of sweet strawberries, a little Sancerre, a pretty tablecloth, the children (let's pretend for a moment that they're not too old and reluctant), a couple of dogs for good measure.
As Mother's Day quickly approaches, I am reminded of the many reasons I love my mother. She is smart, kind, funny and she makes one hell of a good Hershey Bar Cake - you see, I grew up with Betty Crocker.
While Wikipedia defines Betty Crocker as "an invented persona and mascot, a brand name and trademark of American food company General Mills," my own personal Betty Crocker is a flesh and blood person who happens to be related to me and goes by the name of Jodie.
While I was growing up the fictitious Betty Crocker was famous for such delicacies as "dunkaroos" (snacks containing frosting and cookies) and "mystery fruit cake;" but my own in-home version could whip up just about anything to rival her. My mother's specialties, always made for the sweetest "sweet tooth," included lemon icebox pie with a Vanilla Wafer crust, bittersweet chocolate chip cookies, a pound cake that defined the law of gravity, a sour cream coffee cake that me makes salivate just thinking of it, and the chewiest brownies possible made with Droste's cocoa imported from Holland ("Corners, please!")
Sundays are for suppers. Not just any suppers. Suppers made patiently, slowly, lovingly. Like the way your mother or grandmother used to do.
When I was a child, most Sunday mornings were spent rolling the meatballs. From the time I about four years old, I’d stand on my mom’s rickety yellow step stool, and eagerly dig my hands into the cold pork and beef mixture she had waiting for me on the counter top. I’d add the eggs (yes, I was an egg-cracking prodigy), the bread crumbs, the parsley, the grated cheese, and I’d being to squish and mash the mixture with delight. That is, until my hands turned purple from the cold. Then my mom would run my hands under warm water, rubbing them with her own, before she’d let me start rolling the meatballs again.
If you think 4-year-olds love to bake cookies, give them a crack at rolling meatballs — you can keep them occupied for hours. I’d roll about 40 meatballs every Sunday, filling large rimmed baking sheets end to end. Every Sunday my mom would invariably say, “Honey, are you sure your hands aren’t too cold? You want me to roll the rest?” And I’d say, “Nope, I’m fine.” Why would I want to leave the kitchen? I loved being there. Everything — the sizzling of the hot olive oil, the sharp smell of garlic, the many “sweeties,” “good jobs!,” and “loves” I received from my mother — was perfect. I would have chosen making meatballs with my mom over playing with my my play-dough. And I loved my play-dough.
My mom is a great cook. No, really, I’m not kidding. I know everyone says that about their moms, but my mom is the real deal. I don’t think she’d mind me telling you, though, that this wasn’t always so. In fact, the family joke is that she didn’t know how to boil water when she got married. Worse, she married a guy from a big family. My Dad and his five brothers all pitched in to help their mother cook, so they knew their way around a stove—and had opinions about everything food-ish.
My mom grew up in a more formal household; there was a cook, and I don’t think little Pauletta was allowed in the kitchen too much. So when my parents were newlyweds, the first time they went to the grocery store my Mom started to cry because Dad clearly knew what he was doing, and she didn’t.
Well, that all changed. Not only did Mom learn to cook, but she fell in love with cooking, sautéing her way through Julia Child, learning to bake great yeast bread and homemade rolls, picking up on the new craze for stir-frying in the ’70s, and mastering pie crust like nobody’s business. Her spaghetti sauce (which I cooked for Roy this week—it’s his favorite) and her pumpkin bread are now legendary. Plus, she was the Mom who had warm chocolate-chip cookies waiting every day after school. (Pretty sweet, huh?)
Now, if we could only get someone to make these for us...
A Mother’s Day food ritual that has always worked for me is breakfast in bed. At first, it was helping make breakfast in bed for my own mother. My mom was a late riser, and loved breakfast in bed, whether it arrive on her wooden tray at home or via room service at a hotel.
On Mother’s Day, my sisters, my dad, and I would prepare a tray of croissants, jelly, and butter. We’d add fresh-squeezed orange juice and super-strong coffee.
My mother would wake up grudgingly, because she was a night person. But loving the effort we made, she’d rally and gradually rise to the occasion. We gathered around her in the pushed-together twin beds she shared with my dad.
She’d tear off a tiny piece of croissant, dip it in strawberry jelly, sip her coffee, read The Sunday New York Times…and then light her first of many cigarettes of the day.
Since Mother's Day is a day when mom is celebrated and pampered, it would be counter-intuitive to expect her to cook. On the other hand, putting too much burden on the other members of the family (dad and the kids) would also be ill-advised.
There is the classic New Yorker's solution of serving lox, bagels, and cream cheese or avoiding cooking entirely by visiting a restaurant, but a home cooked meal makes such a personal statement.
The key is to prepare a simple meal so you don't spend more time in the kitchen than with her. That and flowers tells her, "I love you."
Gooseberries have nothing to do with geese. The berries are bigger than a pea, smaller than a marble and are pale green or ruby red, depending on the variety. Wear gloves when you pick them. The bushes are covered with thorns. I dare you to eat one raw without making a face. They are beyond tart.
Gooseberry pie is an acquired taste. The only places I know to get it are Du-par’s Restaurant (L.A.’s Farmers’ Market, Studio City and Thousand Oaks) and my mom’s kitchen in Edwardsville, Illinois. Call me be biased, but I like Mom’s better. She has made it just for me for at least 35 years. And yet, I’m not a bit spoiled.
We used to have a gooseberry bush in our back yard that provided enough fruit for Mom to make about one and a half pies. Not nearly enough. Now she gets her berries by the gallon from the frozen food locker in town.
When she retired from 23 years of teaching “Secretarial Practice” in high school, my mother started baking and quilting with a vengeance. Our family and friends have been the lucky beneficiaries of both. We are all warmer and heavier since she retired.
My mother had knack for making the most beautiful pies. I’d watch her two fingers work quickly making the fluted crust’s edge. I absorbed her every movement from my stool hoping some day my crust would look like hers.
Her hands moved so quickly around the dough making even ruffle and the second pass around made points from the ruffles, inside and out her fingers pinched the dough.
She made many different kinds pies: custard with freshly grated nutmeg; a pumpkin pie that made the whole house smell of spices, but our favorite was her apple pie. We begged her for it but she said we had to wait for the frost to turn the apples bright red.
The apples were always jumbo Macintosh that the orchard owner saved for her; I always thought that she preferred the largest ones for flavor but she was a working mother and it took less time to peel. Nothing more than that she confessed, after I spent a good part of a day looking for apples as large as she used.
The recipe came from my mother’s mother, maybe it was her Canadian family-I’m not sure of its origin but I’ve never seen a similar recipe and I have really looked!
Who doesn't love French toast and who doesn't love bread pudding? Bread pudding was one of my favorite things to eat during my studies in London. At every restaurant I'd order it for dessert. The British traditionally pour theirs over with custard, but I like it with maple syrup. It's basically baked French toast anyway, so then why not enjoy it for breakfast? Toasty on the top and creamy on the inside, it's a pudding to dive right into and devour. What a perfect dish to delight mom on Mother's Day.
Bread pudding is such an easy dish to put together. But to get the best results, soak the bread cubes in the custard mixture overnight. Then in the morning, add a bit more custard to make it extra rich and creamy in the end. Pair it with sweet and savory brown sugar bacon baked in the oven and you have a hearty breakfast for mom. But best of all, kids can also help out (with limited adult supervision) since everything is easily baked. Mom will not only be happy but proud as well.
This is great for a Mother's Day morning breakfast because you can throw it together the night before. I make two or three pans for big brunch parties.
You can vary the fillings – add sausage or bacon, leftover vegetables and feel free to substitute any good melting cheese, such as Havarti, sharp cheddar.
To weigh down the assembled strata, Cooks Illustrated suggests using two 1-pound boxes of brown or powdered sugar, laid side by side over the plastic-covered surface (A gallon-sized zipper-lock bag filled with about 2 pounds of sugar or rice also works.).
by Cathy Pollak
Daddies, avert your eyes, because this is what your family will be serving you in bed on Sunday morning (Father's Day). However, it's so good, the kids might help you eat it all. And Mom, it's so easy to make, the kids can take all the credit...they will love that.
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I always have leftover bread. Challah, french bread, sour dough. Generally, I make bread crumbs. But my freezer is full of bread crumbs. So, I am forced to cook and create. With all the rain we have been having, I am happily staying indoors. The weekends can sometimes be filled with way too many commitments. However, this past weekend, it...Read more...
by Susan Russo
Perhaps it's their association with English tea and ladies' garden luncheons that make scones so deliciously feminine. Since they're one of the easiest baked goods to make and are always well received, they're an ideal addition to your Mother's Day breakfast.
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