“A Recipe to Remember,” Dec. 26, 2017

     Few moments in life are as rich in meaning and memories as the simple act of sharing a meal with someone we love. Even if we share it from afar.

     Here’s a confession: I am not the world’s best cook. I’m not proud of it, but there it is. I never stirred a pot before I was married. I’ve stirred plenty since and gotten better at it  over the years. But growing up, the kitchen and meals that came from it were mysteries to me.

     My mother worked hard as a waitress and a millhand. At the end of the day, she didn’t want help cooking for her family. She wanted to be left alone. So she’d shut the kitchen door, open a nearly empty cupboard, rattle a few pots and pans and miraculously produce a meal.
     We ate it. It was good. Especially her biscuits. And her peach cobbler, oh my.
     Years later, faced with feeding a family of my own, I bought cookbooks. I figured, if I could read, I could cook. Which is true in theory. But not in spirit.
     The art of cooking is like the art of conversation. You need to do more than the basics. It isn’t enough to say, “Glad to see you, how’s your mama and them?”
     Yes, that’s a start. But you need to ask real questions and listen to the answers. Share a bit of yourself. And most of all, you need to care. In cooking, as in conversation — and life– caring makes all the difference.
     I learned to cook partly by cooking, but mostly by listening to what people at my table said, or didn’t say, about the food. I watched their faces, hoping they’d smile in delight and not gag on the gravy. I’d ask, “What does it need?” or “How can I make it better next time?” 
     I kept track of who asked for seconds (yes!) or sneaked scraps under the table to the dog. I even took note of what the dog lapped up or left on the floor.
     I sensed the connections, the salt of conversation and the spice of laughter. Did the meal begin with a prayer of gratitude and grace, the joining of hands and the clinking of glasses? Did it fill our hearts as well as our stomachs? Did it nourish not just our bodies but our souls? In the end, did it bring us closer?
     I know. That might be a lot to ask of a tuna casserole. But hear me out. We’ve all been famished and have eaten something, anything, just to fill us up. I have no problem with that. I do it more often than I like to admit. But if we’re cooking for the pleasure of sharing it with loved ones, the meal should be pleasurable. And memorable.
     No cell phones. No TV. No unpleasantries of any kind. And nobody leaves the table until all have finished. Except small children who’ve eaten their fill and can’t sit another minute.
     One of the best things about sharing a meal is the memories it creates or brings to mind. Imagine my delight recently when my daughter asked for my recipe for Dutch Babies.
     It’s a simple recipe: Mix four eggs, a cup of flour and a cup of milk. Bake it in a buttered cast iron skillet at 425 for about 20 minutes until it’s puffed up and golden. Serve it with a sprinkle of lemon and powdered sugar.
     As I typed those directions to send to her, my mind hummed with memories of times I made that recipe for her and her brothers and their friends. All the sleepovers. All the lazy Saturday mornings. All the Sunday night suppers when I didn’t want to go to the market to get something else.
     I smiled, picturing the little girl who loved that recipe. She would sit at the kitchen table with powdered sugar on her nose, holding J.J., her Cabbage Patch Kid, in her lap, sharing pretend bites with him.
     “J.J. loves it, Mom,” she’d say.
     That’s the same little girl who wanted the recipe to make on Christmas morning for her husband and 6-year-old Henry and Slowy, Henry’s stuffed sloth.
     I added a final instruction: “When you serve it,” I said, “be sure to say ‘Nana loves us all!’”
     Because I do.
     I bet Slowy asked for seconds.


  1. Jeanne Schultz says

    Oh, how I adore you! I’ve been a widow for 3-1/2 years, but organized a group in my church for women who attend alone (no matter the reason). At our church’s Family Camp last Sept., we ate at our picnic tables then sat and talked and talked, and it was those conversations that cemented our friendships!

  2. Recipe Dutch Babies. Pre-heat the skillit?

  3. fred hernandez says

    We too shared a dinner that nourished our souls. Nancy and I helped serve a Community Dinner at the Monterey Fairgrounds. About 2,000 were served. Our job was to fill and deliver plates for folks who couldn’t stand in line for one reason or other. I have never said Merry Christmas so many times. And while we never ate a bite (we had a feast waiting at home), we have never felt so satisfied over a meal.

    • Yum Sharon! I love my French toast with lemon and powdered sugar. I will absolutely try the Dutch Babies. Thanks for the recipe and a most Happy New Year to you and yours!

  4. My sister LOVED your shrimp and rice casserole. Do you remember that one?
    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Speak Your Mind