For many of us, some of the greatest influences for our love of cooking and food has been a mother figure. In some cases, this sparked enough of a love that we chose to make food and nutrition our life long careers! For Mother’s Day this year, FoodMinds employees put together a few stories to thank our mother figures for showing us the ins and outs in the kitchen.
“Laughter is brightest where food is best.” My mom placed this quote on the wall of our kitchen close to our dinner table. Almost all my mealtime memories involve this quote sitting in my sight – and I still reflect on the importance of its meaning. Food brings people together and my mother ensured it united our family. We almost always ate dinner at 6 PM sharp where we would exchange our stories of the day. My mom is the reason I became a dietitian and I’m grateful that she helped me find a career where I can help others have a meaningful experience with food.
Julie Pappas, RD
Many of my childhood memories include the wonderful smell of cookies, pies and biscuits baking at my Grandma’s home. She rarely used a recipe and she always invited me and my sister to join her in rolling cookie dough, sifting flour for biscuits, or creating mini cinnamon rolls from leftover pie crust. She encouraged us to get messy with flour and taste along the way, as she shared tips & tricks from her mom. Her kitchen was filled with love and she inspires me to cook from the heart, which I hope to pass on to my daughter.
Growing up, I learned that putting a nutritious and delicious meal on the table doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, one of my favorite recipes from my mom is one with the fewest ingredients: salmon, lemon, fresh thyme, olive oil and salt and pepper! So simple but it’s how it is prepared and cooked that makes it so delicious. She’s also taught me how one ingredient can change the flavor of a whole dish. For example, my mom is the only one I know who puts bread crumbs in Hanukkah latkes but it completely changes the whole latke eating experience! Thanks mom, for teaching me that good food is about simplicity, fresh ingredients and a whole lot of care and love!
Chelsea Elkin, MS, RD, CDN
Growing up in Minnesota, I’ve had my fair share of “midwestern style” food. What most people refer to as a casserole, Minnesotans call a “hot dish” and they are plentiful during cold winter days (which, if I’m being honest, is at least 7 months of the year). My very Scandinavian mom (and Grandmother) often sourced hot dish recipes from the Good Shepard Lutheran church cookbook, or – my go-to favorite to this day – THE Betty Crocker Cookbook. A family staple was a concoction of tater tots or French fries, ground beef, frozen corn, cheese and cream of mushroom soup, layered in a dish and baked to perfection. It seems like an odd combination, yet it somehow worked! What I love about the matriarchal Schon-style of cooking is that they never followed the recipe quite exactly and always found a way to “make it their own” – a practice I like to continue to this day…just not in hot dish form.
When I was growing up, I would always watch my mom take out this old cookbook that was falling apart every time she would get ready to make a recipe. I always wondered why she kept something that was in such bad shape. I learned that it was my grandmother’s cookbook that she had hand written and used all my mother’s childhood. I decided to learn how to cook with my mom from my grandmother’s cookbook, because not only were the recipes delicious, but it made me feel like I was standing in the kitchen with my mom and grandmother.
My mother always said: “If you can read, you can cook.” So, I’ve often used cookbooks to find great recipe ideas and create meals for my family. But, more than reading, I also learned to cook and the importance of family meal time from my mom (and dad). Each night, as a child, we sat down to dinner as a family. To this day, even with busy schedules and competing priorities, my daughters and I deliberately sit down to homecooked meals during the week. We rely on standby favorites, like my mother-in-law’s beans and rice or my mom’s make-ahead meatballs, to get dinner on the table fast. Thanks to family traditions, I cook, my daughters cook, and we’re a tighter family for it.
I am thankful I took the time to learn how to hands-on make my mom’s famous stuffing recipe, that I make for my family on Thanksgiving. I worked side-by-side with her, watching her from how she carefully cut the celery and onions just so, to how much milk and eggs should be added to the bread. I also made sure to watch the special way she mixed it all together, with her bare hands in the biggest roasting pan we could find. I will forever cherish that I learned how to make her stuffing, as I carry it on with my family in her memory.
My mom, a full-time homemaker and mother of 5 girls, made sure to always have a home cooked meal on the table for our family growing up. As the youngest of 5 girls, and becoming the only child living at home by age 12, I became interested in cooking early on and would become my mother’s helper in the kitchen, mastering one of our go-to meals (ginger beef) before I was in high school. Today, my mother and I share all the cooking/baking responsibilities for any holidays or family gatherings!
My mom’s KitchenAid® mixmaster was her prized possession while I was growing up, and still is to this day. I loved being her baking coconspirator as a kid. Getting permission to measure the messy flour and crack-an-egg were rites of passage. My entry into adulthood was complete when I was finally allowed to bake her from-memory chocolate chip cookie recipe with no adult supervision. It most definitely took a few episodes of being sent-to-my-room afterward to fully grasp that mom coming home to a spotless kitchen was part of the bargain!
Coming from an Italian family, food is part of what brings us (and keeps us) together. I remember all the women gathering in the kitchen on holidays to cook my grandma’s recipes—we often had lasagna at Thanksgiving! Grandma put a lot of love in her recipes, and rarely wrote any of them down. She always told us she could just feel when the pasta had the right amount of flour or egg! The kitchen was her domain, and it is her passion that has been passed down to my mother and now, to me. As the matriarch of the family, she’s taught us that cooking isn’t always about following precise measurements, but about how you feel and who you are with.
Lauren Shelar ,MBA, RD
My grandma is my cooking inspiration, not baking. Unlike tradition says, my grandma bakes TERRIBLE cookies. She never follows a recipe and is very liberal with adding her garden herbs to every dish. My childhood was spent in the kitchen with my grandma, helping to tackle her latest catering order. I was known as the meatball girl (she still sometimes calls me that) and rolled 5,000+ meatballs in my career as co-caterer – this isn’t made up, we tallied after every job! While my grandma is long retired from her catering business, we still bond over our latest cooking adventures, vintage Le Creusets and cutting boards (she just gave me her chopping block from the 60s!). I love to see her face light up when she tries something I’ve made and always strive to cook at the level of grandma Helen.
Moira Allison, MBA, RD
My mom used to let me sit on the counter while she was baking and cooking. She tied my hair back with a red bandana and just let me spill pretty much everything everywhere. I was the official stirrer and measurer. I also had my Rainbow Brite kitchen set up just outside the kitchen so we could work side by side. Once I became a little older she let me invent my own recipes. One of my favorites was “rainbow surprise”, which was basically rainbow cookies from the Italian bakery that I creatively crumbled up and placed into a cooking pancake. I found my very descriptive recipe for this interesting concoction written in crayon folded into one of my mom’s recipe books not too long ago. Though my recipes have evolved a bit from “rainbow surprise” my mom and I still love to cook together, side by side.
Allison Mikita, MS
To this day, meals taste better when prepared by my mother, even if it’s just a sandwich. Her touch is nostalgic and delicious and made with love. She showed me that a unique touch to cooking creates warm memories for life.
Sue Pitman, MA, RD