Mom's Kitchen

Ah, Mother's Day. Remember when you were small, and Mom was everything? Back then, your world revolved around the music of Mom's voice... the padding of her footsteps, and savory aromas wafting from her kitchen, permeating the house with the promise of delicious things to come.

Remember rainy afternoons, and Mom's golden grilled cheese with a thick slab of red-ripe garden tomato? Or how about the Spaghetti-Os that Mom said had "no nutritional value," but even so you could always count on Wednesday mornings with Mom ladling warm spoonfuls into your plastic Thermos before popping the cup-top into place and sending you off to school. Remember gooey chocolate birthday cakes that Mom baked and frosted herself, and would later scrub off your cheeks and chin with the corner of her dinner napkin? You never could figure out how those crumbs got there, but Mom could spot a chocolate cake mishap from a mile away.

We all have our own distinct memories of life and meals in Mom's kitchen... the recipes that as a child maybe you didn't care for one way or the other, but then you came home from college and suddenly all you wanted more than anything in the world was a plate piled high with Mom's pot roast, carrots and mashed potatoes. So this Mother's Day, instead of picking up a last-minute gift at the jewelry cart in the mall or grabbing a potted plant at the nursery down the road... why not gift-wrap some of those cherished recipes and recollections that you and your brothers and sisters grew up with. Give Mom a taste of yesterday. Create a book of favorite family recipes and memoirs from Mom's Kitchen.

There are no hard and fast rules for creating a memento of this kind. Your Mother's Day cookbook can be whatever you'd like it to be. If arts and crafts is your cup of tea, pick up a brightly colored photo album at the local craft store, one that you can hand-print personal stories right onto the pages and fill with photos from your childhood. If you're graphically gifted, create your cookbook on the computer. You can even turn your Mother's Day cookbook into a web page if you're familiar with HTML.

The most complicated part of this Mother's Day creation will of course be the information-gathering. Luckily, if you have several brothers and sisters, then you likely have plenty of memories to work with. Hand out Mother's Day Homework; ask everyone to poke around the attics of their minds and jot down their best moments from a lifetime of eating, chattering, fighting, laughing and loving in Mom's kitchen. Was there one favorite food that Mom only prepared on special occasions? What about an ethnic dish that you secretly loved but would never confess it to your playmates from school? Think of those hilarious dinnertime mishaps, perhaps something involving loose baby teeth and corn on the cob. Remember those little brother antics around the supper table that we all had to deal with... Or how about all the times you slipped your green beans to Harry the hound dog when Mom's back was turned?

Once everyone's submitted their Mother's Day Remember Whens, have one stealthy family member root around in Mom's old recipe files when she's not around and collect the epicurean evidence of Mom's chef-like wizardry in the kitchen. If you can match a memory of Mom's cooking with an actual recipes of hers that you found buried in the bottom of the kitchen drawer, include these together in one entry of your cookbook. If not... that's okay, too.

Finally, you'll need a volunteer to collect photos, and also scan them if this Mother's Day cookbook will be designed on the computer. Rummage through the old family photo albums and picture boxes and pull out all the snapshots of holiday meals around the dinner table. Maybe you have one of Mom chopping and Dad carving side by side on Thanksgiving Day. What about those classic birthday cake pics and summer barbecues? Any meal-related photos you can find will serve as the basis for your Mother's Day Cookbook.

How many recipes should you include? Ten is a good number, but if you have more than ten by all means load up. If you have only five, that's okay too, as long as your presentation is attractive and the feeling is there, which it no doubt will be if everyone puts their all into the project. Again, this is your Mother's Day recipe book, created with love... and that means there is no "wrong" way to do this. On Mother's Day, have every family member pitch in with a covered dish they made themselves... to create a stupendous dinner of all Mom's favorite foods that she can enjoy without lifting a finger. After dessert (homemade chocolate cake from Mom's recipe box, of course), present your family gift, tell your Mom how much you love her and feel really good about yourselves as a family. After all the years your mother spent nourishing your belly and soul with love, comforting and delicious foods, you gave her back a truly meaningful Mother's Day gift that she'll cherish for the rest of her days.

    Editor’s Note:Ann Zuccardy, creative entrepreneur, food lover and owner of the Vermont Shortbread Company, invites you to sample a taste of her buttery-rich, authentic Vermont Shortbread. Place your online order for shortbread boxed fresh from the oven and shipped right to your doorstep at

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