Learning to Cook: A Tribute to Our Mothers

Did you grow up cooking at the knee of your mother, aunt, or grandmother?  Did you learn the tricks of perfect biscuits, cookies and cakes?   For many of us, this is exactly how the love of cooking is sparked.  For me, not so much.   My mother, Ann, was a brilliant and creative woman.  She could look at a designer dress, create her own pattern and sew it all for much less money—and all she was missing was the tag.  She would spend evenings hand-smocking dresses for her little girls.  Mom was an amazing beloved middle school teacher whose students flocked to her funeral years later.   As a cook, however, Mom had her revolving five entrees.  They were all accompanied by an iceberg lettuce salad and a stack of white Wonderbread.  Catalina dressing for Dad and Wishbone Italian Dressing for Mom and the girls.  She did teach us all the love of good food, though, and I think my sisters and I learned to cook because Mom (and Dad) loved and appreciated it when we did cook.

FW’s publisher Joyce Beverly cooks with her grandmother.

I think about the pierogies my Granny made for us a couple of times a year.  They were delivered with a stick of “real” butter to brown them in.  The kids loved the cheese pierogies, Dad loved the sauerkraut and Mom loved both.  Now, I would love to enjoy any of them, but most of all I would love to know how to make them.  That really thin dough my Granny would roll out by hand; no fancy pasta makers in those days.  I have tried, but mine are just not the same.  The recipe, the experience, is gone.  Not long ago I asked my father’s sister if she would teach me and she, too, doesn’t have the method or recipe.  I now know what an absolute act of love those pierogies really are.

Do you have recipes of your mom, grandmother, or aunt?  Are they in that little box with the rooster on it or red gingham?  If so, what are you doing with them?   Life has gotten busier for all of us.  Our day normally does not include a big open time frame to plan and cook the meals of yesteryear.  You are now the owner of this information, and it will cease to exist if you don’t pass it on to your kids and their kids.  We have the convenience of fast and sometimes healthy food created for us quickly and easily.

Get your kids involved with cooking.  If they are blessed to have a grandmother with them; share, share, share.  Share the gift of cooking and the love of your family’s heritage.  Studies have shown that introducing kids to cooking early allows them to taste new things sooner and they are more likely to have a more diverse palate if they are involved in the shopping and cooking.  My 2 ½ year old nephew, Louie, visited us during Easter.  I propped him up in a chair on the other side of my island and we went to town.  Louie’s job was making the salad, all the while popping spinach leaves and mushrooms in his mouth.  Not sure he really liked the mushrooms, but I did notice the next night when we had make your own pizza night, mushrooms were a part of his creation.

If you are the steward of the family recipes, here are some ideas of how to save  and pass them along.  When a child marries or goes off to their first home, create a recipe book of the family recipes along with their own favorites.  If you are the mother of a son, do the exact same for him; it is not just girls who need to know this!  In this day and time men are often responsible for the meals.  Make a plan to digitize your family recipes.  Some of my favorite recipes are those handwritten by my mother and father.  Dad’s sourdough starter remains on my pegboard of recipes to this day, but is now protected by a plastic sleeve.

As a tribute to our mothers, this month we are honoring them with recipes they have taught us.  Thanks to all of our contributors this month who have put their heart and soul into these recipes and memories.




Nancy Jaworski

Nancy Jaworski is the chef and owner of My Chef Nancy, a personal chef and catering service in Fayetteville. Traveling and learning new culinary cultures are her passions.