Mothers Day

mothers day cardMy mother's name is Iris, poor thing, and that's only because for the first 18 years of my life every Mother's Day she'd receive the what-I-thought-was-clever "purple flower" in one form or another.  

She straightened me out in college and since then my annual quest to find something unique-enough, classic-enough, interesting-enough for Iris continues.

Got an Iris in your life? Check out this week's Things We Love: A Mother's Day Gift Guide, a tightly edited collection of things we love for mom.

motherlatt My mother happily referred to herself as a “good eater.” Although she was very petite, she could out-eat even our teenaged sons. Every year for Mother’s Day the Southern California branch of the family would drive to Little Saigon in Westminster and eat at Dong Khanh, where my mom ordered her favorites: lemon grass chicken, lobster in black pepper sauce, chow mein noodles with squid, vermicelli with bbq pork, spring rolls and a large bowl of pho ga — chicken vermicelli soup.

As much as she loved Dong Khanh’s food, though, she insisted that the dessert be homemade. Since I was the cook in the family, I happily took on the assignment, and the waiters at Dong Kahn had long ago accepted our ritual so they were always ready with a stack of small plates and forks.

Over the years I made her many desserts: pound cake, hazelnut cheesecake, flourless chocolate cake, baked plums, bread pudding . . . but she pronounced the last one as the best — a banana cake with chocolate chips and roasted walnuts.

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dad-and-his-momMother’s Day was always a meaningful day in my life, but not because of my own mother. Because of my father’s mother. She was born on a day in May that fell on or near Mother’s Day. Each year her family celebrated her birthday on Mother’s Day, no matter what the date of her actual birthday. Her large clan would all come to her little house, deep in the Valley, to honor her. Most of them lived nearby, but not us.

We would hop in the back of my dad’s convertible car and head over Coldwater Canyon. He drove with only one hand on the wheel. My dad was handicapped and needed his other hand for the controls that were attached to the steering wheel, both the gas and brake in one. It was very unsteady. Add to that the sharp curves going over the mountain, his cigar smoke filling my lungs, and his spit flying back into our faces that we tried dodging -- well, it was quite the E ticket ride. (For those born after they were discontinued in 1982, E tickets were for Disneyland’s most thrilling attractions.)

Finally, the road would straighten out at the bottom of the mountain for a long straight stretch till we hit Ventura Boulevard. By then, I was fully recovered, though still dodging spit and seeking a good air pocket to escape the smoke. No seat belts in those days either, and I weighed nothing, so I flew around a lot in the back of dad’s car.

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My Mother Vina
My Mother Vina circa 1957

Instead of turkey, mashed potatoes, etc., stuffed grape leaves (along with shish-kabob and pilaf) is the traditional centerpiece of our Christmas dinner.

Disclaimer:  Every script I’ve ever written is overly descriptive and too long, so no doubt this recipe will be, too.  Apologies in advance. 

 

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courbetapples.jpgThe press representative agreed to let me into the Courbet retrospective a day before the preview. My mother and I were in New York for a couple of days before heading up to Westport, Connecticut to attend a memorial service for her sister, my aunt Judy.  Our visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art would be our own private memorial. 

Judy used to drive into the city whenever I came out from Los Angeles and she relished taking me to lunch at the Trustees dining room. She had three sons and none of them were interested in art so she considered me her daughter once removed, the only member of the family, other than herself, who thought time in a museum was well spent. This time, I took mother. 

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