Those three words could instill fear in even the most devoted mother.
Didn’t we just do that?
You know, the hamburgers, grilled corn, tossed salad, even the watermelon for dessert.
Oh, we had that yesterday?
You mean that I need to do it again? Tonight?
This between driving to swim practice, then tennis, or perhaps it was soccer, or baseball, or play rehearsal. Maybe Hebrew school, or even, the seemingly umpteenth run to the grocery store to pick up, what else, something to make for dinner.
In those jam packed years when I spent more time as chauffeur than cook, forget about chef, when rotisserie chicken, precut veggies, take-out grilled salmon, and certainly Alexa, were still a thing of the future, when splurging on a weekday meal out meant a drive through McDonald’s or Burger King, the heck with healthy eating, dinner could throw most any mom (or dad, there were some cooking in those days, at least I think so) into a tailspin.
And yet, some of my most treasured family memories revolve around food.
The lamb hamburgers during our summer in Oxford, that I insisted just smelled funny because they were British style. Eat up!
The quick sweet and sour chicken, that came from the pot a deep, and decidedly unappetizing, purple. Come on, taste it. It won’t kill you.
The pasta with eggplant and tomatoes — or was it the chicken cacciatore or veggie chili — that was a winner, until it appeared once too often in the weekly line up.
And then there were the nights of Hebrew National franks and beans, fish sticks and tater tots.
But, hey, it was dinner, and no one ever went to bed hungry. There was always peanut butter and jelly as an option if you didn’t like what mom had prepared.
And then, of course, there were those special occasion treats, remembered, way before they could be snapped and shared on Instagram. The yellow cupcakes with chocolate frosting and rainbow sprinkles delivered to school for one daughter, even when she graduated from student to teacher.
The bourbon bundt cake baked and mailed to a son at summer camp when he turned 18.
The Rosh Hashanah apple cake stowed in the plane’s overhead to arrive on the East coast in time for dinner.
And, then, my granddaughter asking for the recipe. And making it.
Or, another little one, adding her salad of steamed broccoli and capers to my repertoire.
And then there’s the daughter who sends on nostalgic requests whenever she is coming to town, maybe her grandma’s chicken on the bone or her spinach pie. A taste of her childhood, with vivid memories of Grandma coming to visit with a tote filled with four varieties of cookies, one favorite for each of our kids.
So it goes, one generation to the next, and the essential presence of food — and food memories in our lives. There is something so very satisfying in preparing a meal for those you love. Even if on the fly, rushed in both the cooking and the eating, there is something ineffable about gathering around a table to gobble down something warm and comforting, something that comes from the place of being a mom and feeding your brood.
And in the end, isn’t that what being a mother is all about?