Usually when we talk about creating mealtime memories, it is about in the present to carry us forward. However, for me this last week I have been mindful of the memories I carry with me from friends and family members who have passed away. My mother, for example, was not the best of cooks, but she was an amazing baker and the smell of cinnamon reminds me of her rugelach and I can feel her presence with me whenever I make them. Sometimes I wake up and I can smell them baking in the oven even though there is nothing there.
Every year on her birthday, my friend Laura would ask me to make my lasagna and orange brownies. That is all she ever wanted for her birthday. I can not make either of those dishes without thinking about her and my heart is filled with memories of our time together and the love I still hold for her. I also remember the look on her face as she savored every bite and had this glow of glee when I told her I would pack up the leftovers for her to bring home. I know she savored those leftovers and waited in anticipation for her next birthday. It was the last meal I made for her before she died. I am so grateful for the joy it bought her during a dark time in her life. Read more
Maybe its because Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching or that a picture of my mom appeared in my Facebook memories page, or that we have been talking about mom memories as Pampered Chef consultants, or all of the above that has me thinking about my mom and the lessons she taught me in the kitchen. Even though my mom passed away in 2001, the memories live with me. There are days I can even smell the memories coming out of my oven, even thought it is not on.
My mother was an amazing baker, but necessarily the best cook. However, one thing she taught me was to skim off the scum from the top when making chicken broth. She would tell me the scum would rise to the top and I needed to skim it off. What needs to be removed will let you know it does not belong here. So I would always skim it off. She told me mixing it back in would give a bitter taste to the soup because I was not listening to the soup telling me what needed to be removed. This process continues to teach me to listen to how God speaks to me about who and what needs to be removed from my life. Read more
Every season of the year is filled with opportunities to gather with friends and share a meal. This is true across the world. Summer is filled with opportunities to gather and barbecue. The fourth of July, in the US, is the most popular holiday for barbecuing followed by Memorial and Labor days. Barbecuing is one of those ways of cooking which transcend social and political classes. There is a history of barbecuing at the White House for example, since Thomas Jefferson. Each President has had their own favorite. For example, Lyndon B Johnson was a lover of Texas style barbecued ribs. The most popular flavors of barbecue sauce are hickory, mesquite, honey and spicy hot.
While making plans for these holiday get togethers one is probably thinking most about who to invite, what proteins to make and what beverage and vegetable to pair with them. Rarely, do we think about how spiritually rich these gatherings are. In South Africa, for example, these gatherings are braai and they are more then just a chance to gather and barbecue, they are just to celebrate cultural and spiritual traditions. Gathering with others is about more than cooking and creating memories. It is about honoring the feast, the friends, and the ways foods and wines pair up with each other. It’s about understanding how these pairings brings out the best in conversation and camaraderie for those gathered. There is a richening of community when we gather and share a meal together. Read more
It has been a few years since I have written about fondue, but given that this is National Fondue month, it is a good time to reflect on Fondue again. Fondue is one of those foods which has varied in its popularity over time. However, in some cultures, like Switzerland, fondue is a sacred food. For one very simple reason. It is a meal you can share with people you love. There are some spiritual values in fondue, which are difficult to find in other types of meals.
Fondue is about more than people gathering around a table to share a meal. Fondue is a communal dish. Each and every person gathered around the table is connecting with each other every time they dip something into the fondue pot. It is not so important what is in the fondue pot. It can be cheese, chocolate, or some other form of awesomeness. Nor does it matter what one is dipping into the fondue pot. It could be cheese, berries, or some other delicious dipper. It is the process of sharing a pool into which we all enter and engage.
Eating fondue reminds us to slow down and appreciate time with each other. Especially in this season, we are busy. Eating fondue is a time to sit down, share a homemade meal, sit, talk, and share an experience. Eating fondue allows us to share food and conversation with those we love. Read more
One of my Pampered Chef Team members always talks to me about the importance of her Community Group at her church. This group meets weekly and serve as a source of support for each other in good times and challenging times. This group ensures that no member of the group ever has to go through anything alone. They celebrate with each other and work with each other to create solutions or to provide support when going through the challenging times. Never does she have to go through anything feeling unsupported or alone.
My son taught me a similar lesson when he first came into my life. He wanted to bake cookies. I was so busy at the time working on my dissertation that I honestly did not want to stop working. However, my time with Nick was also rare. He both wanted me to bake with him, but also wanted to bake like a big boy and do it himself. So I moved my work near the kitchen so we could be together and I could help him when he needed it, but he could also cook like a big boy. It was his first time ever to bake cookies, something his birth mother had never allowed him to do. Each part of the experience was new and exciting. I remember feeling so grateful to be able to witness his joy, although I remember not looking forward to cleaning up the mess he was making. The best part was when he came to see me and I could see all the places he had touched his face, as there was white flour all over his chocolate skin. It is a moment I will remember forever. Read more
I woke up this morning thinking not so much about food, about how we come together to share meals together and create memories. This year, I have been reminded in numerous ways that sometimes this is not possible and sometimes what has not been possible becomes possible. This past week so many people around the world celebrated traditions which brought families and people together. My Facebook feed was filled with images of families gathering, sharing meals, creating memories and reinforcing traditions.
At the same time, I have friends for whom this was not possible. Those they loved were in hospitals, incarcerated, and for others reasons were unable to be at the table. Growing up in a Jewish household every year at the Passover Seder we would pour a cup of Wine for the Prophet Elijah. As a child, I understood it as we were holding a space for him at the table. As an adult, I understand it is a reminder of a gathering of a larger family and at a larger table. Read more
If you have been keeping up with my working my way through the alphabet, you know I just wrote my R blog last week (R is for Risotto). Today, however, was my mother’s birthday. She left this world in 2001 and is the one who in numerous ways fed my love of cooking and baking. So today, I just want to celebrate my mother and the gifts she gave me in our kitchen growing up on Kingsland St in Nutley, NJ
My mother inherited a legacy for baking from her mother. While cooking was not her forte, baking was. The two things I remember her baking the most were her rugelach, which I made a few weeks ago. Read more
There is this mystery writer, Sue Grafton, whose books all begin with a letter and a word. For me this week, I have come to discover that H is for healing. I should probably say that Q and L are for healing, but that would not make sense to most people. Well, at least not at first. However, the day after our wedding, I came to realize that food has the ability to help people heal emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Zoë’s cousin Bruce came for the wedding and the day after we had this awesome conversation. You know the kind that linger in your memory for a while and leave you knowing something special just happened between the two of you. It was after some left over home fries and eggs that Bruce began talking to me about his first wife who had died many years ago after a battle with cancer Read more
This memorial day I was reminded of a very important lesson. Food has the power to bring people back home. There are some dishes you can eat and there is something about that dish that just brings you back home, or brings you back to the kitchen of someone important in your life. I know I have shared this before, but Zoë and her friend Billijo love my cabbage casserole. The two of them when they sit down to eat it make sounds that would make someone think they were doing something other then eating dinner. The last time I made this casserole for them, the two of them sat there making sounds and enjoying their casserole while I enjoyed my simple mixed green salad with feta cheese and Greek tempeh. Read more