Thursday, November 4, 2010

Gotta Love My Mom

I love my mom. She has endured and prevailed all her life. She was raised in a hard working family as an only daughter. She endured the hardships of life with five kids, a fractured home and brought it back together salvaging the home and now creating grandma and grandpa’s house. The place everyone can call home.

My papa, (Mom’s dad), used to own a gas station across the street from their small home in rural Illinois. Back then it was full-service and oil changes. My papa was an honorable man who worked hard. Meme (Mom’s mom) worked for the phone company for 50 years. She worked all shifts and times. Back in those days, every call was handled and routed.

Mom was active in school growing up. A popular beauty, she was kept busy in clubs and school activities. But busy was relative; she also spent a lot of time reading, teaching herself how to make her own clothes and chores around the house. One of her weekly chores was using a rotary push mower to cut the grass each Saturday. Can you see a kid today doing that -- a girl, nonetheless?

Mom also learned the art, the gift, of cooking. She watched her grandparents and her mom make and bake all the foods served at their home. Homemade breads, canning, stews and more were a daily responsibility, and she excelled.

Meme’s house had a cherry tree in the back, apple trees on the side, and everyone had vegetables gardens. Nothing was ever taken for granted and the words disposable or biodegradable were yet to be intertwined into the common vocabulary. Empty jars were collected and used for storage or as drinking glasses. Grocery bags were paper and used for lining gardens or collecting compost. Leftovers were eaten before they went bad or used and incorporated into the next day’s meal. It was a green society.

Growing up, I never went hungry. Even in the hard times mom would bake or put together a casserole that would melt in your mouth and fill up your tummy. I remember for breakfast or snack sometimes she would let us have white bread, sugar and milk cereal. That was a glorious treat, and the more sugar the better – the milk at the end was heaven sent. She also made a bread pudding from stale bread, baked and served with a creamy sauce over the top that was to die for.

Special days like Sunday were good food days. The smells of the meal to come filled the house and the yard. A pot roast or Irish stew made for a complete day. Back then very little was ready to bake or heat and serve. Handmade dough rising in the kitchen, frying chicken in the cast iron skillet, potato salads and coleslaws were creamy and hearty.

To this day, my mom cooks meals each day, prepares sauces and breads, special salads and desserts. I love it when we visit and there is a pan of orange peel bread and banana nut bread sitting out the whole time. You can walk by her kitchen without slowing down for a snack grab or indulgence. She still makes jalapeƱo jelly that is to die for and cans all types of fruits and vegetables.

Mom has written two books. The first one is “Pioneer Living,” where she talks all about the lifestyle and hardships of the pioneers. Her second book, however, may be my favorite; it is her home-style cook book. In it she divulges all of her recipes and tips. This book, in some ways, is the lifeblood, the legacy, the family traditions from her kitchen. I love that she has taken the time to collect and categorize the foods we grew up eating in a way we can now share with our kids and their kids for generations.

All in all, food can be a powerful thing. Proposals for marriage, family talks, laughs and tears all come while sharing food with each other. The Bible has all kinds of references to food from front to back. Jesus used fish, wine and bread a lot. He was especially fond of it when He was teaching and in quiet intimate moments with His best friends.

This year when you are enjoying the bounty of food before you at Thanksgiving, think about the grace that has been given us to live in such an amazing country. Spend a quiet moment giving thanks to God for what we sometimes take for granted. Make a few sandwiches up from the leftovers and go find someone in need or, better yet, invite some folks over to enjoy the time with you.

We are planning our trip to grandma’s house right now, the warm enticing aroma of her kitchen and the fresh sweet treats call us back. In the meantime, I think I will make her bread pudding with an extra batch of sauce; it is a comfort food and we all need to be comforted every now and then. Thanks mom.

See every copy of Country Line Magazine for one of Shirley’s best recipes or e-mail her at