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We learn life’s most essential lessons from our mothers.

Mine taught me how to fold laundry, that boys have cooties and that she has eyes in the back of her head. She showed me how to love and how to balance a checkbook, and told me relentlessly “patience is a virtue.” In the past year, she has shown me that when the doctor says its cancer, you hold your head high and kick that neoplasm’s ass.

In light of Mother’s Day, I commemorate my mom for making me the woman I am today. I don’t remember the first recipe she shared with me or the first time that we cooked together. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment when I realized my passion for food, but I can be sure that it all started in her kitchen.

I remember coming home from school and finding the house filled with the aroma of red beans and rice simmering in her avocado green crockpot on the kitchen counter. I had cheese grits for breakfast on chilly Chicago mornings and pecan pie every Thanksgiving. Every Halloween, Mom decks out the house (and herself) and cooks the chili recipe that my grandparents used in their restaurant for thirty-four years. Dad cooks too – serving up a number of recipes that came from his mother, my Grandma. Because of my dad’s mom, we have oyster dressing at Thanksgiving and stuffed artichokes that my brother and I  devour in a matter of seconds. My maternal grandmother taught us how to make homemade ravioli, a recipe handed down through the generations.  Maw Maw’s handwritten recipe, which calls for “a little” salt and making the pasta “just like you’d make plain ordinary dough” will touch my heart and my taste buds for years to come. I remember her teaching my mom and I how to roll out the paper-thin pasta dough, without tears or holes, until it was the size of her kitchen table.

With a family so rooted in food, it was inevitable for me to end up writing about it. Recipes handed down from my mother, her mother, my father’s mother and all their  mothers before them have been keeping tummies full for decades. I took a whack at the ravioli this Christmas and failed miserably (although, I attribute this to the arid Colorado climate). I haven’t been able to get my pecan pie to turn out just like Mom’s either. In the midst of my follies, I smile knowing that the legacy of my family’s matriarchs will live on in me and in generations to come.

Hats off to you, mom. You truly do know what’s best.

Mom and me, Christmas 2010

Happy Mother’s Day.

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