Today we honor mothers and all they do. As a food blogger and dietitian, I’m grateful that my mother passed on her passion for nutrition and cooking to me. Starting at a very early age, simple food-related tasks, such as going to the grocery store with her, were treasured outings. She taught me how to select certain produce… what to look for and what to avoid. She would then give me my mission, “Now go pick out 6 nice onions.” Most likely, the time coaching me in the selection process took more time than it would have to pick out the produce herself. But, I loved being her assistant -especially when it came to making pies. I would ‘help’ her role out the dough with my 6-inch child’s rolling-pin.
A child of the 70’s, in-home entertaining was festive and frequent. Cocktail parties were common occurrences. The women wore long, brightly colored print dresses and their hair was curled, pinned and sprayed into elaborate updos. The men were kicking-it in turtlenecks and plaid sport coats. The house would fill with revelers and the smell of elaborate hors d’oeuvres kept warm by an army of chaffing dishes and Sterno canisters. No caterer. Mom did it all. Just as she had done during this era when business men, such as my father, would entertain the important clients at home.
In my mind, what my mother created for these events was no less than magical. She made classic dishes such as Chicken Cordon Bleu, Baked Alaska and others which I recognized from the covers of her Gourmet magazines. And her dishes actually looked like the magazine covers! She never took a class. There were no youtube videos or food blogs to learn from. Rather, she learned from Betty Crocker, Julia Child and the Woman’s Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.
Blessed with innate talent, failures were rare. But, when one did occur, ‘Carlita’s Test Kitchen’ was open for business. She would test and re-test different recipes, on a mission to master any culinary nemesis. My siblings and I recall “Pavlovafest.” She baked at least twelve different Pavlova’s until perfecting it. She learned the hard way that Seattle moisture and meringue don’t play well together. But, she finally nailed it. To this day I’ve never had a better dessert than her Pavlova, which she lovingly offers to make for me when I’m in town.
My mother nourished me emotionally through her cooking. She also nourished me physically with her knowledge about nutrition. She was an early adopter of ‘health foods’. Much to my chagrin, this meant brewer’s yeast on our oatmeal and whole grains before they were in vogue. It took me a while, but I eventually came around.
She also nourished me intellectually as she read a lot about nutrition. During my teen years, I began to struggle with my weight. In response, she gave me a copy of ‘Sugar Blues ‘ -which illuminated the health impact of my sweet tooth and was a major catalyst in my interest in nutrition. Years later, she gave me a copy of ‘The Schwarzbein Principle‘. I was completely captivated as the endocrinologist author recounted her numerious initial consults with diabetic patients, which upon physical examination had scars on their chests from cardiac surgery. The presumed remedy for their heart condition was a ‘low-fat diet’ which translated into a high-carbohydrate diet. This book fueled my interest in nutritional science, insulin resistance and glycemic response in particular. Taking note, my mother mentioned “You know, Bastyr University is practically in your backyard”. And it was. And I went.
I was naive growing up, assuming that everyone’s mom had shared the magic of the kitchen, that cooking for others can be an act of love and that educating yourself about nutrition is one of the most impactful things you can do for your health. But, my mother did and for that I will be forever grateful. Thank you mom!
Here she is -in her element. In the kitchen with a glass of wine and her mischievious smile.
Did your mother influence your interests in cooking or nutrition?
Parents – how do you involve your kids in cooking or nutrition discussions?