According to Wikipedia, the word "Foodie" was coined in 1981, but my Mom's single-minded pursuit of all things food certified her to be termed a Foodie way back in the 1940's. Yesterday would have been her 87th birthday but she passed away at the age of 76.
She was a force to be reckoned with, a larger than life presence at any gathering, a take-charge woman who could feed a crowd on a moment's notice from the in-stock contents of her refrigerator. She would read cookbooks like other women read novels! She believed in having plenty of everything on hand. You could find food stored in almost every closet in her house, even in the trunk of her car. She was generous to those who had nothing and also to those who had everything. Her greatest joy was to crowd as many people around her dining room table as could squeeze in there, serving them as many dishes as would fit down its bowling alley length. She would emerge from the kitchen, sweat glistening on her face flushed bright red from the heat and her efforts, her arms laden with delicacies. She reveled in the gush of compliments over her foods, smiling broadly, "Eat, don't wait for me! Enjoy it before it gets cold!"
Growing up her oldest child, it fell to me to help prepare for these frequent "company" dinners. "Maxine, you dust and sweep the living room and dining room and set the table! Come back as soon as you're through because I have another job for you!" Once when I was around 12 years old, I complained to her that I felt she was having all the fun doing the cooking and baking while I always got stuck with the dreaded housework! She thought that was hilarious and used to repeat that line to her friends when they marveled at the tastiness and complexity of her meals. "Can you imagine", she would say. "Maxine thinks I have all the fun and she has to do all the work, just because I asked her to dust and sweep and set the table!" She got mileage out of that story for the next 40 years.
Aside from dining out, her favorite activity was grocery shopping. Raising six children and three foster kids took strategy and budgetary finesse. She was always an astute coupon-clipper and a saver of Green Stamps. A shopping trip to her was not complete until she had walked the aisles of at least four grocery stores, lists in hand, eyes darting along the shelves. If an item was worth buying, it was worth buying a dozen. Not one to skimp on the important things, it was her firm belief that her family should have the best food, the best shoes and (for us girls) the best brassieres!
As she grew older, she would begin her preparations days ahead of time. She tired more easily and it became more difficult for her to whip up a large meal single-handedly all in one long orgy of cooking. So she marshaled her forces like a general on the battlefield, making lists of things to do in a final count-down to the feast. She salivated while creating her menus. She cooked dishes days ahead of time, filling her freezer with casseroles with notes attached admonishing us not to touch before Thursday or Saturday!
Of her children, I carry on her love of cooking for a crowd, but never as gallantly or with such complete enthusiasm, joy and delight. Those extremes of human emotion in the presence of food belong to a very few exceptional devotees like my Mom. Just writing about her makes me hungry...