Mom's Secret Ingredient!
By Momivate's "Atmosphere" CouncilMom, Annette T. Durfee
Mom must have been magic!
Really! Everything she touched in the kitchen tasted like gold in your mouth! (well, except for liver and onions – but hey, I’ll forgive her for that!) But seriously - melt-in-your-mouth rolls, warm creamy soups, comforting casseroles, tantalizing roast beef dinner, savory shepherd’s pie…I could go on and on!
Just what is it that made Mom’s cooking so great?! Was it the splendor of eating in a palatial hall on bona fide China? Was it that she served a 7- course meal made purely from scratch? Or was it that she spent the entire day slaving away in the kitchen?
Hardly! Mom was -- and still is -- a fantastic cook and hard worker to boot, but practicality has always been a quality that was surely at the forefront of her mind. You and I both know the real reason for that mouth-watering taste of home: Mom served every meal with a heaping spoonful of her secret ingredient . . . LOVE.
Yep! I knew that she loved me when I ate it. I’m quite sure that I didn’t fully recognize it then -- in fact, I probably underappreciated her efforts. Regardless, her secret was there - sort of an underlying message that would waft through the kitchen and down the hall, whispering for us to keep coming back – back to the kitchen, back to the table, back to the warmth of her influence – sign, sealed, and delivered with a kiss.
So how do WE do that, Moms? How do we, with limited time and means, and sometimes limited skills in the kitchen, infuse as much love into the process so that even if it’s not their favorite dish, our families KNOW that we love them when they eat it?
Here are a few ideas to add to a list of your own fabulous ideas:
Plan ahead – Nothing says “stress” in the kitchen quicker than not having a meal ready when hungry tummies come calling. I’m sure we’re all familiar with the “hangries” and that doesn’t even come close to that warm feeling we are trying to create. So, what can we do to avoid this? Mom took a few minutes each day to prepare the meal – taking the meat from the freezer to the fridge the night before or squeezing in a few minutes in the morning to start the crockpot going. Many moms also plan out meals a week or so in advance so they can add items to the grocery list for a one-stop trip. Let’s see, anything special this week? Andrea’s birthday cake on Friday and the potluck social on Saturday. And of course, we’re really busy on Tuesdays and Thursdays so we need a quick and easy option for those nights. Some families choose to make it simple by assigning a theme to every day – something like: Mondays – Italian, Tuesdays – Taco Tuesdays, Wednesdays – soup or salad, Thursdays – crockpot dinner, Friday – pizza night, Saturday – leftovers, Sunday – sweet and simple. What kind of plan would work best for your family?
Bring along a helper or two – If you’re like just about every mom on the planet, you don’t have a lot of time to spare, so why not engage your mini chefs? That seemed to be the way it was with Mom. We not only felt her love with the delivery of the meal, but she infused an extra sprinkle of love into the meal by including us in the very process. There we were, side by side, where she gave one-on-one instruction on peeling the carrots, shredding the cheese, chopping the bananas, and browning the hamburger, all the while sharing stories and building trust. When my children were small, I tweaked this a little bit. I found it to be more than a little chaotic and unsafe with everyone “helping” in the kitchen all at once. So, I capitalized on their interest and willingness to help at a young age by assigning one child per day to help me with meal prep. With only one child to focus on, I found it was a lot of fun. And if my children made it, they usually ate it too! After a few years, I put them in charge of making one dish for the meal and eventually the entire meal with me there to supervise if there were questions. When time came for them to walk out the door to go to college, they had become great cooks and could really fend for themselves! Now that’s love in your pocket!
Eat together as much as possible – Thinking back to those growing up years with Mom, I realize that it wasn’t so much WHAT we were eating as that we were eating together. Mom not only took time to make it just for us, but then she ate WITH us. That fact helped us feel that we were the most special people in her life. She had time for us. Dinner became a time to linger longer and talk it out. What was funny? What was hard? What did we do when we were little? What did we learn in school? What was important to us now? She learned from us and we in turn learned from her – manners, values, attitudes, beliefs, her life lessons, how to laugh at life, how to get along with each other, and how to tackle the hard stuff that life threw at you.
These are just a few of the little things that strong families are made of and can create a bit of heaven in our homes. In fact, that idea reminds me that one time in her late teens, my youngest sister said, “Do you know what heaven is going to be like? It’s going to be just like this – all of us sitting around a table and visiting and laughing while we enjoy good meals.” Well, I’m all for that – especially if it includes a little homemade pie with ice cream! So, whether it’s a fancy night of chicken cordon bleu or a simple PB&J sandwich, trust that you’ve got that special ingredient right up your sleeve, ready to make any meal a magical memory.
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