Sharing Memories of Cooking with Mom

Sharon Palmer

One of the best traditions mothers can hand down to their children is cooking special foods. And if you don’t share your own mother’s recipes with your children, how will these memories and traditions stay alive? I’m a huge advocate for establishing your own food traditions in your kitchen, and passing them along to the next generation. After all, food is so much more than nutrients—it’s sustenance and love. I want to cherish all of those memories with mom. Here’s a recipe, pictured above, which was inspired by my mother’s southern food traditions: Grits Smothered with Mustard Greens.

My mother, aunt Lena, and aunt Prussia with our bounty of fresh, local produce.

Sharing Memories of Cooking with Mom

The smell of strawberries mixed with dust on a hot summer day. The color of blackberries when they stain your hands. And the earthy aroma of ripe tomatoes as they are placed in canning jars. Those are the food memories of my youth. In the summers growing up in the Pacific Northwest, we would spend a warm day on a strawberry farm in order to fill our freezer with strawberries for the winter. At the U-pick strawberry farm, you could eat all the strawberries you wanted in the field, and then pay for the strawberries in your flat at the end of the day. My mother used to tease that the farmer should weigh us before coming in and then weigh us when we came out to figure out how many strawberries we owed him! We also picked wild blackberries, which grew fiercely in our back yard, to make cobblers and jams. And every year we’d make the drive to Eastern Washington to load up our station wagon with summer produce, such as tomatoes, to fill glass mason jars with canned produce. Here’s a photo (above) of my mother, Aunt Lena, and Aunt Prussia with our bounty of produce from Yakima about to be canned. I can smell those peaches right now!

Now, I have created my own food memories with my two sons, Christian and Nicholas. This photo (above) is in my kitchen about 10 years ago, as we picked lemons from our tree to make homemade lemonade. Holiday cookies, monkey bread, and Peter’s waffles were also great traditions in our home. And as they grew, they started adding more traditions, such as pho and curry. Now when my son Christian comes home from college, he looks forward to one of his favorite meals. I hope he tells his own children about these special memories some day. In honor of Mother’s Day, I asked some of my colleagues to share their own memories of cooking with mom. Read on for their great stories and traditions.

Sharing Memories of Cooking with Mom

1.  “My mom is a wonderful baker and is known for her cinnamon spice muffins. I grew up making these with her, and they were (and still are) a signature part of holiday dinners. Often when my mom comes to visit, she’ll bring these in mini-muffin form, and now these muffins are my go-to when baking for others,” says Amy Gorin, MS, RDN, owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ

Canning seasonal tomatoes is a wonderful tradition to hand down through the generations.

2. “I learned to can fresh veggies from my mom. Every year my mom, sisters, and I get together for a weekend of canning tomatoes. I did a blog post with recipes about our summer canning weekend,” says Jodi Danen RD, Family Nutrition Blogger at The Average RD.

Baking, such as with this recipe for Zucchini Carrot Spice Muffins, is a favorite food tradition.

3. “My mom says she kept four young children entertained with big kitchen craft projects. We made everything under the sun, from fortune cookies with hand written fortunes, giant German pretzels, poppyseed bagels, and elaborate gingerbread houses with candied pane windows. When she wasn’t in the kitchen with us, she gave us a lot of freedom to experiment on our own. I’m sure that’s why cooking is such a place of comfort and creativity for me to this day,” says Katie Morford, MS, RD, cookbook author and blogger behind Mom’s Kitchen Handbook.

4. “Even though she doesn’t enjoying cooking as much as my dad does, my mom taught me how to bake, and I have great memories of making cream puffs with her and picking boysenberries from our yard so she could make the most delicious homemade cobbler,” says EA Stewart, MBA, RD, owner of Spicy RD Nutrition in San Diego.

This Blackberry Pecan Cobbler is a recipe handed down from my mother—it will appear in my next book!

5. “Some of my favorite memories of my Grandma are making things in the kitchen. All my memories are random and wouldn’t be nearly as awesome to anyone else, and that is why they are so special. Every time I want to be reminded of our adventures I make these no bake cookies and smile as I indulge in peanut butter chocolate wonderfulness!” says Kelli Shallal, MPH, RD at Hungry Hobby.

6.  “My favorite food memory of my mom is really a general memory from childhood. I remember the aura in the house when my mom was preparing to have guests over for the holidays, whether that be Thanksgiving or the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah or Passover. Music was always playing, and these bands/artists are my favorites to this day. The kitchen was a flurry of activity, with the turkey basting or various dishes alternating in the oven and on stovetop space. My job was always to set the table and I was given various tasks to help prepare dishes.  This holiday prep “aura” has shaped my cooking preferences today. I always play music when cooking, and I enjoy finishing off preparation as guests begin to come over and fill the kitchen,” says Rachel Begun, registered dietitian and culinary nutritionist.

7. “My mom was way a head of her time. She bought us natural peanut butter, when it was only available in limited health food stores, breaded our chicken with wheat germ and gave us fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. At the time, I only wished that she could be like the other moms and have more “junk” food in the house. Little did I know, I would follow in her foot steps,” says Keri Gans, RDN, author, The Small Change Diet and owner of Keri Gans Nutrition.

Hand down healthy traditions including seasonal veggies.

8.  “When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to pull out a bowl of washed and prepared whole radishes and that was our snack. To this day, this is a snack that I love and that was passed from my Romanian grandmother to my mother and on to me,” says Toby Amidor, MS, RD nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, and owner of Toby Amidor Nutrition.

9. “My mom always made Toll House cookies, congo bars, or hermits for us 5 kids as an after-school snack with a glass of milk. I can still smell the cookies coming out of the oven! Mom is now 83 years old, and continues to make homemade cookies for my dad once or twice a week,” says Janice Newell Bissex, MS, RDN.

Baking traditional recipes, like my classic Vegan Sugar Cookies, is a wonderful custom to share with your family.

10. “Holiday traditions run deep in the Zabel family. I have the best memories of making the annual Christmas snowball cookies with my mom and grandma every year as a kid. Powdered sugar, icing, sprinkles, nuts, you name it, it covered our kitchen. My mom never complained, never yelled, just really cherished the moment and memories we were making together. To this day, I have the handwritten recipe from my grandma hanging in my kitchen! I’ll always treasure those times,” says Elizabeth Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT of Shaw’s Simple Swaps.

Mediterranean foods, like this fava, have so many special traditions.

11. “While not necessarily a food memory, I love that my mom and I share so many of the same food preferences. We both love Mediterranean food, carrot cake is our favorite dessert, we both have an apple or pear each day, we appreciate a really good cup of strong coffee, walnuts are one of our go-to snacks…the list goes on and on! Like mother, like daughter!” says McKenzie Jones, RDN.

I’m sharing some of my favorite traditional recipes from my family, including:

Red Bean and Okra Jambalaya
Grits Smothered with Mustard Greens
Vegan Tamale Pie

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