This Mother's Day I would like to honor those mothers who are now well into their senior years with perhaps grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Mothers that have cooked abundantly in their lifetime who have acquired so much wisdom and, if we listen, have valuable advice regarding life, family, and cooking.
Many of us have strong memories of our youth that involve food. We have memories of that special dish that Mom made on Thanksgiving, or a spaghetti sauce that has been handed down several generations. Not only are these memories treasured by us, but the recipes from the generations of women and cooks of your past are treasures to keep also.
Recently I was given a cookbook that had been compiled of cherished family recipes of the residents of a group of senior living homes. The staff and administration wanted to create a book of recipes that honored their residents.
Residents and families were asked to share a favorite recipe and tell what it meant to them. This book of recipes includes a collection from the hundreds that were submitted. It was a delight for me to look through it and read some of the stories. I was reminded of just how meaningful these "tried and true" family recipes are, and the valuable lessons we can learn from so many great cooks. I noticed that there was a recipe included by a woman who resided in a nearby senior home. I wasn't sure where I was going to go with it, but I wanted to meet her and perhaps feature her recipe in my column. Later, when meeting with the staff and Norma's family I knew right away I wanted to feature her recipe on Mother's Day and honor her and all our "senior"cooks.
It was a beautiful and sunny spring day when I arrived to cook with Norma's daughter and family while Norma looked on. She wasn't able to "hands-on" participate, but she was with us, as her family recalled that she had a degree in home economics and loved to cook and create recipes. We made her recipe for "Yumma's Potatoes."
Following is Norma's story regarding this recipe. To quote Norma, "I made these potatoes for family events for years. When my grandchildren were old enough to ask for favorite foods, they would ask me to make this dish, and as they call me 'Yumma,' my dish became known, as 'Yumma's potatoes.'"
While we were cooking, about 20 to 25 people joined us to watch and listen. Several women were residents that still enjoyed being able to cook with their families. One woman recalled making her "famous" meatballs with her granddaughter that week. Another recalled making her potato dumplings for a recent holiday dinner. (Of course, I asked them both for the recipes.) After the camera stopped rolling (filming the video), I enjoyed joining the group and having a great chat about what else?.... cooking, family, and recipes. I was humbled by the legacies these women were leaving for the people they loved most. On the inside cover of the cookbook is this quote that speaks volumes; "No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, their advice and wisdom."
— Laurie Colwin
3 pounds potatoes
2 cups mayonnaise
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1⁄2 pound bacon, cooked crisp
1 cup black or green olives, sliced
11⁄2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
Boil potatoes for 15 to 20 minutes until cooked through. Let cool, then peel and slice into a bowl. Mix with enough mayonnaise to moisten. Add chopped onion to taste. Add any or all of the following to taste: crisp-cooked, crumbled bacon, sliced black or green olives.
Spoon into a greased casserole dish and cover with a generous layer of shredded cheddar cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.
Patricia Altomare invites feedback. Email her at email@example.com, or write care of The Gloucester Times, 36 Whittemore St., Gloucester, MA 01930.