“Dinner’s ready; it’s time to eat,” Mom would chirp.
Without hesitation, my Dad, girlfriend (now my wife) and I took our seats around Mom’s dinner table on Sunday evenings.
We plied into Mom’s feast of juicy roast beef; buttery mashed potatoes that she whipped with a hand-mixer; rich, brown gravy made from the meat drippings; sweet corn, and toasted garlic bread. “Please pass the gravy,” I exclaimed with relish.
“How is the meal?” Mom asked. She gleaned the answer by our enthusiastic gobbles, but my girlfriend always politely proclaimed it was delicious. My Dad and I nodded happily in agreement as we stuffed our faces. Mom’s day-long efforts in the kitchen paid off in the amazing quality of her meal.
After finishing, we helped Mom clear the table before we all played some Euchre, a card game which my Mom and Dad usually won over my girlfriend and me. Not the most gracious of losers, I often darted outside for a quick smoke, usually joined by my Dad. Then we played another game while waiting for fresh-brewed coffee and strawberry shortcake, a dessert Mom prepared especially for Dad and me. Feeling sleepy from the sumptuous meal and warmed by the engaging family time, I would sadly note that it was time to head home. Then Mom would ladle a second feast into several Tupperware containers for me to enjoy the next evening.
During my childhood, Mom collected lots of recipes which she carefully jammed in a little box atop a shelf in the kitchen spice cabinet. She had a recipe for treating us when we were sick, she had a recipe for cheering us up, she had a recipe for fortifying us for school and most importantly, she had a recipe for making her family happy.
When I was home sick from school, Mom always made her special recipe for chicken soup, fondly remembered for its healthy quantities of chicken and rich egg noodles floating in a hearty broth. As she served me a generous bowl with plenty of crackers, she kissed my forehead to check for fever. I can’t truly say what was more healing – the chicken soup or the love with which she made it.
Mom’s best recipe for life’s disappointments consisted of a steaming hot batch of chocolate-chip cookies. A bad day of getting low test grades or being teased in gym class immediately melted away after enjoying several sweet, chewy cookies served with an ice-cold glass of milk.
My favorite school lunch featured Mom’s delicious tuna salad generously spread across soft slices of Butternut white bread. The secrets to Mom’s recipe for tuna salad included Miracle Whip instead of mayonnaise, a bit of onion, and plenty of diced hard-boiled eggs. In the school lunch room, classmates offered prized treats in exchange for one of Mom’s tuna-fish sandwiches. Even the lure of a trade for my favorite Hostess Ho Ho’s could not entice me away from my treasured sandwich.
In my snackoisseur opinion, Mom’s recipe for turkey stuffing beats any other stuffing in the world. On Thanksgiving and Christmas mornings, I awoke to the savory aromas of Mom’s simmering onions and celery in a pan full of butter and browning pork sausage in a huge skillet, ready to be mixed with just the right amount of bread cubes. Nearly 100 guests eagerly waited in line to spoon up her famed turkey stuffing. This recipe made everyone in the family very happy.
I get so hungry just thinking of those all those goodies Mom used to make. It took plenty of love and patience for her to adapt her recipes, shop for the best ingredients at the best prices, chop, stir, mash and watch the oven and pots for hours so her meals would be delicious. And they had to be delicious because Dad was fussy. It wasn’t just the food though, it was the quality time that we spent each night at Mom’s dinner table.
My most cherished of Mom’s recipes is the one she prescribes for life. “Have a positive attitude and be happy.” I love you Mom as I think about you on this Mother’s Day.