My mother wasn’t the round, rosy, aproned grandmother; she was the tall, thin woman quietly shelling perfect spring peas in the kitchen while everyone else poured wine and dipped into her pesto and goat cheese torta in the dining room. She was shy and relationships weren’t easy for her; Preparing beautiful meals was her way of connecting to people when words and feelings baffled her.
Probably for these reasons my mother didn’t believe in potlucks; she believed in making every course herself. Only in later years would she stoop to accepting people’s offers to contribute. And when she finally began asking me to bring a dish to Thanksgiving, I heard the submission in her voice. It killed her, as if she were surrendering a portion of her kingdom.
And when I showed up with the two pumpkin pies she’d requested, there sitting on her dining room buffet table were two of the most gorgeous pumpkin pies you’ve ever seen – tender crusts crimped in perfect rolling waves, the filling a fresh pumpkin baked with heavy cream and aged bourbon. In the end she couldn’t surrender. Instead of seeing my pies as assistance she had seen them as a challenge. Instead of scratching pumpkin pies from her list of things to do, she’d added “make them even better than ever.”
She was a little nuts. I’m sure everyone has their own stories about their mothers – funny, odd, difficult, complicated – and recipes to decorate the tales. I invite you to send “Food for Thought” a favorite recipe from your mother. The recipe could be her best or her worst, your favorite or the funniest depiction of her. If you can, send a story along with it.
The contest will end on Mother’s Day. We’ll simply pick the contribution that zings us with all that motherhood is: a woman struggling to love and raise children when loving herself wasn’t always a finished project. For many of us, our mothers’ dishes say that. Maybe your mother’s recipe says “Mom would rather be selling real estate.” Send it in if you think it’s good.
The prize will be a gorgeous dessert place setting for four assembled by Tom Stockton of The Landmark Files, with one of a kind items from his secret sources: Oversized oatmeal linen napkins from HumbleSimpleSlow. Candlesticks handcrafted from rail spindles. Cut glass sherry glasses. Verrines on a chunky modern charger. Cups for your cafe au lait. Even the pears spinning in a whirl of raffia, a la Tom.
Submit your recipe and/or story two ways: either paste it into the “contact us” section or mail it to Haatwood@gmail.com.
I’m finishing with a recipe I found in my mother’s files: Bertha’s Pound Cake. It’s an alchemic combination of butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream and flavorings. My mother made the pound cake for years; the ratio of crumb to density is fine-to-elegant, and the flavor makes me think of buttercups. If my mother had asked me to bring a cake for dessert we both would have baked this one, as neither one of us could improve upon Bertha’s Pound Cake with fresh berries and whipped cream.
Bertha’s Lb. Cake
2 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup butter
3 cups flour
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon lemon flavoring
1/2 teaspoon orange flavoring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla flavoring
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 10 inch bundt pan.
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs one at a time.
Sift dry ingredients. Add alternately with sour cream. Add flavorings.
Bake until a knife inserted comes out clean, approximately 45 minutes.
The Prize from The Landmark Files
If your mother’s recipe and story send us, we’ll send you the following:
(There are four of each unless otherwise noted.)
1. white ceramic simple coffee cups and saucers
2. dessert wine stem ware cut glass etched with subtle floral pattern (Tom’s
3. cordial stem ware with subtle tear drop shaped pattern
4. glass verrines
5. small footed glasses/bowls
6. white ceramic saucers
7. chargers made out of a composite material with a silver finish (a bit of bling)
8. teaspoon size spoons
9. glass water glasses
10. Handmade linen napkins from HumbleSimpleSlow
11. white ceramic water pitcher (don’t you always want water with dessert after the usually too salty meal?)
12. white ceramic modern biomorphic flower vase
13. Large whitewashed candle sticks made from Victorian railings and fence caps
14. flameless wax battery operated candles
15. mid size white wood candlesticks
16. real taper candles
17. metal woven basket with handles and silver finish for desert wine or cordial bottle (more bling)