Picture me and my mom baking brownies together in her cozy kitchen. I am about five years old, with long pigtails, smiling ecstatically as I smear frosting over the brownies, my clothes and my face. Mom is wearing her favorite baking apron – the one with the little pictures of mixing spoons and bowls -- and beaming at her little pastry chef. She’s proud to pass on the secret family recipe for perfect brownies to a daughter who will treasure it.
Got that firmly in your mind? Good. It’s the only way you’ll see such a picture because it doesn’t exist and that sweet little scene never happened. That’s because my mother (who is a fantastic mom in just about every way) is kitchen-phobic to the point that she tried to build our house without That Room. She settled for placing it off to the side of the house by the garage so she would never have to walk through it. And she succeeded in passing on her aversion to all things culinary (except take-out food) to Yours Truly. Neither of us was likely to win a Domestic Diva of the Year award.
That was then. So life takes funny turns and I wind up not only learning to cook and bake to feed my family, I turn it into a full time occupation, well you know…
So while I can’t share my mother’s tips for the fluffiest soufflé or the softest brisket, I can share her undying encouragement for anything I decided to take on – basketball, my bachelor’s degree or baking. I am now married just over 7 years and she does not miss a beat when it comes to complimenting my new recipes, or even commenting on the perfect piece of fish or lightest slice of challah. I have to hand it to her. For a mother who never pictured her educated, mega-career oriented, 21st century daughter as a Yiddishe balabusta, it’s a wonder that she’s so enthusiastic about my choices and achievements. But she is – and she is truly proud. She tells everyone I am “the best cook,” and she says it with buoyancy that proclaims that I’ve reached the pinnacle of her aspirations for me.
My mother never gave me any priceless heirloom recipes. But she instilled confidence and gave me unconditional support and love and positive reinforcement at every turn. And that is more valuable than kitchen tips; I can learn those from anyone. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!