At the beginning of this writing project, I knew I would interview my mother. It may have been the best 2 hours of my whole week. And this is how she began:
“When I think of food – it wakes up everything in me – wakes up sight, smell, taste; it delights all my senses.”
We set a day and time for the interview. It was easy to get her sitting down as she is healing from her bionic hip replacement. She had prepared some thoughts prior to my questions, observations that were news even to me. Here was the first:
“I love potlucks. I look at that at those long tables, full of food, realizing I only have room for a small amount of it on my plate. I think of the first one at this church (in Minnesota) over 20 years ago. I couldn’t believe my eyes…there was no color on the table. Not a green salad in sight, maybe green jello but I doubt it because they only use red or orange. The food was pretty plain – white, lots of hot dish, but what there was…Rice pudding, it was so delicious. There were 3 or 4 varieties of that. People were not as conscious about eating healthy then. It is different now. “
Q: What are your favorite foods?
A: Soup because it’s fall. Anything with apples, because its fall; pie, crisp, baked apples. Homemade bread..Homemade Jam… Good roast with mashed potatoes and veggies…Salads with lots of interesting things on top. I prefer to make my own dressing. I love a good casserole, which probably explains why I like potlucks. I don’t make them often anymore. Cornbread and baked beans”
Q: Why did you make us breakfast every morning
A: “Because you kids needed breakfast. You needed food to think. In my mind it’s part of being a good mother, having made sure my kids had a good breakfast.”
It turns our she didn’t even eat it herself. She rotated the following: boiled eggs, (jeff would eat the yolks and Julia would eat the whites); muffins, french toast, pancakes, rice n raisins, bread pudding, toast fingers, egg sandwiches. I remember high school final exam week, she would insist I eat breakfast though I wasn’t hungry that early in the morning. MM ran through a list of ideas until she found one thing I agreed to: cheese burgers in the electric skillet – between bread or a bun rubbed through the pan burger bits/grease. Mmmmmm.
Sunday mornings catered to my dad’s favorite: Homemade dough tea ring or store-bought Danish with jelly or cream cheese filling and scrambled eggs. What you need to know is that my mother was the church organist. We had that meal before church, yet 5 kids and one dad all showed up to church on time (she was early to warm up), hair done, dressed up.
She didn’t know the answer to the question: How did you do that?
A few years ago my mom wrote and published a cookbook. It was many years between the idea and the finished product. I admire her and thank her for that accomplishment. The book gets a lot of use in my kitchen. Of course, I wanted to print that story.
Q: Why did you write the Cookie Book?
A: “Because of dad’s great love for cookies. Also because you kids and your families and I love great cookies too. I also did it to leave a sign of love and testimony for my kids and grandkids. Dad’s favorite cookie is the first recipe in the book.”
T1 and T2 nicknamed my father Mr. Wonderful. I must insert here that one of the ways my mom speaks food love language, is to leave a container of cookies for Mr. Wonderful when she goes away. During December she loved a lot more than just dad with her cookies. There was a stack of containers in the garage all month-long. (winter in South Dakota means the garage is the same temp as your freezer). Each had a different type of cookie, candy, or bar that was made only that time of year. And gallon buckets of homemade chex mix. Mother Mary would pull out a sample platter anytime someone came over. I and my siblings went out and snuck out there all month-long to get a thing or two for tea time, night-time, it-sounds-good-now time.
I am craving all those containers right now. Shoot.
Q: Why did it take so long to write the Cookie Book?
“I was afraid of the computer; of putting it together; the thought of it all. It was an overwhelming task. It finally happened because of Julia (my sister who passed away 2 years ago). Julia had medical appointments in the city, so I took the computer along and typed while I was waiting for her. The first time, I only typed one recipe. There was a young man waiting for his girlfriend, I asked if he knew about computers. That kid was all over me. He sat at my elbow, walked me through my questions and beyond. He was so excited about computers. I bought him lunch as a sign of thanks. He told me that he was looking for work while waiting to go back to school. I gave him this idea: give classes for older women who don’t know how to use computers because you are so good and know how to explain it.”
The young man got her connected to the internet and off she went. Pretty soon she was ‘whippin them out pretty good.’ Most of the typing happened at Julia’s appointments.
Hannah (the gem my brother John married), may not think she did that much but MM adamantly said, “I could NOT have done it without her.” Mom wanted those recipes to be written perfectly before she sent it to Hannah. Hannah is responsible for all that happened when the recipes were handed over. Thank You Hannah from all of us who love the Cookie Book!
Q: How did the cookbook get its name?
A: “There was a book naming contest at John and Hannah’s kitchen table with their 4 children. The prize: a root beer float. The kids came up with lists. The only stipulation: I didn’t want my name in the title. At some point Marybell pipes up, ‘..well why don’t you just call it Cookie Book?’ everyone’s eyes lit up and agreed – ‘that’s what you need to call it.’ I added the subtitle because in the process of writing, you all asked for my salads and your favorite recipe requests.”
The full title of the book is: Cookie Book; With Salads and Other Good Stuff. The ONLY negative about this cookbook is its lack of availability. I’ve encouraged her for years to make them available to people other than family and special friends. Maybe you could help me convince her by letting me know that you would want the Cookie Book if you could get one.
Q: Is Food a Love Language of yours?
A: “CANT YOU TELL, but you’re way better at it than I am. I never thought of food as a love language, but I certainly do now. I never would have put it in those words, but it is so loving.”
My Dad says Mother Mary’s family is way to preoccupied with food He says that half their life revolves around food or talking about it. Letters were always full of what they had at this gathering and that gathering. It was a love language in a letter.
I agree Mr Wonderful that a lot o life has and does revolve around food, in mom’s family and in mine too. But think of how YOU benefit….no whining. Here’s how she ended the interview:
“I just finished eating my famous Cottage Cheese Sundae. It’s so good for you and don’t vary it at all.”
I needed a reminder of how to put it together. Here’s how: Cottage Cheese; pineapple; raisins; nuts, drizzle with honey.
Meet Mother Mary and Mr. Wonderful along with a few others…(there is just one tiny picture MM may not appreciate, but you have to see what a good sport she is…)