01 January 2019

Thinking of Mom: Food Is Love


After my mother died in November, my father and I went through every pantry shelf and every kitchen cupboard, bagging items to donate to the soup kitchen. It was awful but necessary work as Dad, who is a very basic cook anyway, couldn't stand being surrounded by so many things that reminded him of Mom. It is still really hard not to walk into their kitchen and "see" Mom there, putting together a meatloaf or pulling a banana bread out of the oven. (Mom was allergic to bananas, but she still baked Dad banana bread because he loved it and she loved him and food is love).

My mother always kept her pantry and freezer fully stocked with ingredients so that, at any moment, she might whip up a blueberry coffee cake or hearty supper as need or whim moved her. She was a generous cook, who loved to feed other people, and was not going to get caught out because she'd run out of, say, baking powder or vanilla.

Also, Mom had spent a significant part of her youth poor and hungry and, I think once she had grown into a thrifty adult with a household of her own, she was determined to manage things so her family would never go hungry or lack basic necessities. This worked out well as Dad was in construction and, whenever the housing market took a downturn, money would get tight. While my parents might worry about the mortgage payments, there was always good food on our table and toothpaste in the bathroom.


In the end, after a day of rummaging and reminiscing, I took a trunk-load of unopened, unexpired spices, baking mixes, flours, sugars, and canned goods to the soup kitchen. The kitchen staff were happy to receive it -- I contacted them in advance to make sure they could use what I was bringing -- and I think Mom would be pleased with the donation, too.

I also brought a smaller load of unopened, expired baking mixes, flours, and sugars home with me. Too old to donate, I couldn't bear to throw them away as there was nothing wrong with them and, also, throwing them away felt like throwing little pieces of Mom away.

As time has gone on, I've slowly begun to integrate my mother's things into my own kitchen and the situation is becoming more normal. I don't look at my mother's recipe box -- hand painted with strawberries by her back in the 70s -- and feel grief like a stabbing knife in my chest. It's more a gentle, wistful ache. I wish my mother were still alive and well. I wish we could cook together, again. Short of miracles, I can at least hold those memories of her in my heart as I cook with her things in my kitchen.


TL;DR, I baked scones using Mom's very expired (best if used by 9/30/2017) King Arthur Flour cranberry-orange scone mix and her mini scone pan. This was only the second time I had baked scones and they came out fabulously. Crisp on the outside, soft but crumby in the middle (kind of like a buttermilk biscuit?), with lots of good orange flavor. Mom would approve.