Today is Mother’s Day. It is a day that, despite its original intention, should be set aside to celebrate the hard job of raising children. As we celebrate these special people who have played a part in our lives, I would remind you if that person is alive—make the time to get the recipe for her specialty.
People who may have lost their mother or other caretaker in their life might know what I mean. I first began to understand the fragility of life when I was 21 and my Aunt Maxine died. She cooked all kinds of incredible food — she even catered many family weddings. With three daughters and a son, many people in the family assumed that her children would be the natural inheritors to all of those recipes. So we did not take the time to capture them for ourselves.
There is a tradition in Pittsburgh called the cookie table. Cookie tables appear at weddings and in the year before she died, Aunt Maxine had two of her children marry three months apart. As the caterer to these events, Aunt Maxine made sure to continue the tradition of the cookie table. And on that cookie table were the most buttery, tender and delicious jelly cookies. Some call them thumbprints. I gorged myself silly on those jelly cookies during those two weddings that year. Foolishly, I thought I would have many more opportunities to get jelly cookies. But about six months later, Aunt Maxine died. And with her passing, all of those recipes were gone. Her children did not have the recipes. No more jelly cookies. Ever.
So it is nice to use the day to celebrate that special female caretaker in your life. But also celebrate them by spending the time to get their specialty. She may tell you there is no recipe. Don’t listen. Court her to get it. Spend time with her to get it. Insist. Don’t take no for an answer. Specialty foods are a way that people live on, and are remembered.
At Aunt C’s funeral a few weeks ago, people spoke from pulpit about her egg pie. Cousin Ebonee has the recipe. When my mother-in-law died, she passed down her pound cake recipe to her daughter. My husband has the sweet potato pie recipe of another beloved aunt. My mother got Aunt June’s pie recipe before she died. I am the proud recipient of my father’s famous iced tea concoction and my mother’s Sally Lunn bread. I understand the importance of these specialties now, but I learned this lesson the hard way. I’ll never have another one of those jelly cookies again.
What specialty food would you miss from your special caretaker?