Both of these holidays are uplifting and about renewal. No matter your religion, this year we should all celebrate everyone’s holiday and have some long-awaited fun.
After the coronavirus quarantine solo dinners of the last year, I gratefully rolled up the sleeves on my vaccinated arms, put on the apron my adult daughter made me in preschool and grabbed my recipe box of family favorites to decide what would be on the menu. Requests from the adult kids are usually for traditional holiday dishes while the younger ones are all about dessert.
I’m always a bit melancholy and miss my mom, Ginny, more than usual during any holidays whose emphasis is on food — although when aren’t they? I used to call her for directions or about a technique that she taught me while growing up in our Chicago kitchen. Sometimes I just called to hear her take on a recipe and to let her know that, even if we weren’t together, she was there in spirit.
I was utterly fascinated with my mom’s ability to commit her recipes to memory and, with the exception of baking, that her cooking was a free-for-all of condiments she rarely measured.
Cooking with her as a child, one of my favorite activities on special occasions was setting the dining room table with the holiday china, silver and crystal. I made her promise that she would save these family heirlooms for me. Although I do have the heirlooms, what I don’t have is her.
One of my most cherished possessions, however, is my mom’s box of recipes that she collected over a lifetime of cooking. Regardless of how often I’ve made the same dish, I still like looking at her handwriting and cooking tips. The most used recipes have gotten a little faded and dog-eared, but my drip marks are a testament to my devotion.
In fact, the little messy box is not just a repository of my mom’s favorites but those of so many other loved ones who are no longer at the table. As I flip though the box, I can see my whole life.
From the time I was in my 20s and watching Julia Child on college breaks, I collected recipes from family and friends. Some holiday specials are referred to as “Pam’s” or “Nancy’s,” “Robyn’s” or “Lena’s,” or my sister, “Linda’s.” Bragging rights are awarded for the best whatever, even though we all do our own variations. Each perusal of my recipe box is a wonderful trip down memory lane.
Being a bit out of practice, I had to make several trips to the market. I had lists on lists so I wouldn’t forget anything — but of course I did. I felt like I used every dish and glass in the kitchen, but my table looked great and the food was delicious. The house smelled like my mom and holidays past.
I truly hope this week will be the beginning of a year of renewal of spirt and appreciation for family and friends.
Whether I’m hiding the matzo or the Easter eggs, the joy of the little ones is what really warms my heart. These traditions bind the past with the future through family recipes and family ties.
— Judy Foreman is a Noozhawk columnist and longtime local writer and lifestyles observer. She can be contacted at email@example.com. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are her own.