So in honor of Mother’s Day, we’re collecting a handful of the memories, lessons, and recipes our own moms’ food staff picked up. Hopefully, they will bring to mind your own fond memories of the matriarchs in your life—whether real or fictional.
Do you have your mom’s favorite recipe to share? Share it in the comments below!
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Salad of Tex-Mex tortilla and black beans, above. “In my memory, she approached cooking as a labor of love—yet labor,” writes Joe Yonan in an essay on his take on the salad his mother made “every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, every birthday. In retrospect, I know that Mom taught me that variety and experimentation were all well and good, but especially with a crowd to feed, there was nothing wrong with a repertoire, even a small one, of dishes that worked.”
Cod Cakes† “My mother taught me to cook almost by osmosis. It was something that happened every day at our house, and I gradually went from watching to doing,” Ann Maloney writes. As part of the “do” — and as a way for her mom to take a break from her meals — she set up Every Man for Himself Friday dinners. “Why Friday? Because after a week of teaching in public school and, as she put it, ‘homemaking’, she was tired.”
Instant Pot Arroz Con Pollo† Some recipes are passed down from parent to child for generations. Others take a less direct path, as in the case of Daniela Galarza and this Puerto Rican-style arroz con pollo. “I learned to make arroz con pollo from my Iranian mother, who learned from my father’s mother, and whose instincts in the kitchen – a super-powerful sense of smell, a perfect taste for small taste variations – taught me more about being a great cook than my too expensive cooking school.”
runzas† “I’m a food writer without a defining childhood story,” writes Tim Carman. Though he’s now known for scouring the DMV for the best barbecue and sandwiches, his taste was much simpler as a kid in Nebraska. “I hated almost everything except my personal junk food troika of vending machine sweets, grilled burgers, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches,” he writes. “The one dish I adored, however, was my mother’s runza, a staple meat pouch that is a staple of the Great Plains diet. Little more than fried dumplings filled with cabbage, onions, and seasoned ground beef, runzas were the perfect accompaniment. my limited taste buds.”
Baked Chicken Thighs With Butter And Onions† I practically grew up in the kitchen and learned to cook under the watchful eye of my mother. “While I love her time-tested recipes, I’ve also learned to embrace my zeal for creativity and experimentation in the kitchen,” which I embraced in my take on my mom’s recipe for fried chicken.
Apple Shallotka† “If your mother suddenly ran to the kitchen to bake a quick cake for company, that cake would be an apple sharlotka,” writes Olga Massov of her childhood in Russia. “The cake was a byproduct of the ingenuity and ingenuity of Soviet women, fueled by a strong desire to show hospitality,” and could be produced with a scarcity of ingredients, time and equipment.
That Cream Cheese Cool Whip Pie† †[My mom will] use words like “fancy” and “complicated” to describe what I’m up to, with the implication that what she’s doing is too simple. But you know what? Simple is good. Simple can be nourishing and time-saving, and a person — ahem, me — standing in a flour-and-sugar-strewn kitchen (not so) quietly cursing my tendency to stick to long and complicated recipes when I’d probably have to do other things,” Becky Krystal writes. “My mom would also be refreshingly audacious to use recipes from food manufacturers. That’s how a beloved Keebler dessert came into our circulation.”
World’s fair cake† “More than almost any heirloom from my childhood home—the fantastic photos of my late father, the toys from my childhood—this is my mom’s recipe for her World’s Fair Cake that I craved the most,” writes Tom Sietsema. While learning how to create precious dishes and record them for posterity is immensely valuable, sometimes the real price is the act rather than the result. “Something funny happened on the way to finishing these recipes. The mixing and measuring, the slicing and dicing – the release of a cork from a bottle of rosé – got us talking about the past, especially hers.”