Thursday, January 27, 2011

My Mom The Foodie.....

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...


  1. And me too! What a wonderful testament to your Mom, and I'm sure she would be so proud of what and who you have become.

    I never heard the word Foodie until I went to Maine. They have claimed the word as their own, which I'm sure is not true, but Portland has more restaurants than I've ever seen in any one city. But I am like you. I prefer a home-cooked meal, and wish my mother did not have to work outside the home to buy the food, and instead was home to cook the food. We all pitched in with prep, but often she would have that meatloaf in the ice-box before she left the house.

    You are such a great writer. I look forward to more blogs, and living vicariously on Jolico Farm. Thanks for the all-over warm feeling. Patsye

  2. Patsye, thank you for such kind words. I spent yesterday stoking the embers of my memories of my mom. Then I spent today writing about what most personified!! Of course, I was 'noshing' the entire time I was writing, which totally blew my diet! But I think she would have been pleased that I chose the most motherly of her characteristics with which to honor her memory on her birthday.

    Friends, you can visit Patsye at her new blog, Whimseytopia | An Older Woman and Her Art: Unlike me, she is a very prolific artist and blogger, too!

  3. Beautiful tribute, Max. I love how you make her alive on the page. What you say reminds me of my mother, the passion to cook, grocery shop, feed others.

    Big family, six kids and fosters. Keeps a mama busy.

    Thanks for sharing her with the world.

  4. Oldest of 5 here, Max, so that explains everything in life, doesn't it? :)

    My mother loved to cook, as well. When she got very fussy about how things were done, we'd tease her (4 girls) by calling her "Betty Crocker." She never thought that was so very funny though!

    Lovely tribute and so fitting with Jolico Farm and all you do there related to gardening. I'm sure your mother would have also loved your new blog design!

    Hoping you have an inspired and restful weekend. Getting ready to give Noah a little bath here ... he's not terribly fond of the process, however! --Daisy

  5. Deborah...(soul-sister from a different mother) ~ Thank you (bow) for your perceptive comments. Yes, my wish was to resurrect my mom, if even for just a day in the blogosphere. I miss her larger-than-life presence. As I age, I tire of trying to emulate the amazing 'balabusta' that she was, and taught me to be... Few in my paradigm know what a balabusta is any more. But blogging is really for self-satisfaction (in my mind, anyway..) So, thanks for reading about her and, more importantly, commenting. It makes her live again, and gives me some small measure of validation :)

  6. Daisy, I remember you describing once in your blog your mother's talent for making Lemon Meringue pie. I commented that it was my absolute favorite pie in the whole wide world; not yours, it turns out! That's where I learned she wasn't fond of you girls calling her 'Betty Crocker', either.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment here on this post marking what would have been my mom's 87th birthday. That makes you special, too!

    I hope Noah enjoyed his bath....probably his first since his surgery. He's one of the luckiest dogs we know! Give him a special hug from me and from Mo!

  7. Readers, to see the personal blogs/webpages of the those who have commented here, simply click on their names and you will be transported to their pages. Please do visit each one of them. I promise you will be fascinated and richly rewarded, as all are exceptional women .....Max

  8. Haha, so now I can tell you, Max, that at 82, my mother still makes lemon pie and still insists that "we'll love it." It's hysterical. We'll frown, and she'll come back with: "Oh, you love it -- lemon pie?" Like what is wrong with anyone who doesn't love lemon pie OR who could not love such a delicacy. It's funny the small things that loom so large in our minds. Sending sunny wishes to you, Moses, and the Judge!

  9. As always, Max, your blog inspires, & takes me back to my childhood. Greenstamps?!? OMG!!!! It was my job to lick & stick, & I loved it!!!! Your Mom sounds like a wonderful woman, and it's CLEAR you take after her! I know you miss her, as I miss my Mom every day, even though it'll be 15 yrs on the 16th of Feb, one week shy of her 69th B-Day. Nothing, and no one replaces a "Mom". It seems we were both fortunate to have exemplary ones. Oh, the shoes & the bras?!?! "Foundation Garments", fitted @ Hornes or Gimbels ---of the utmost importance!!! Unfortunately, I didn't have much to "fit", compared to Mom & my sister, yet I still endured the humiliation of the "fitting"! UGH!

    You inherited your Mom's love, Max, & not just of cooking/feeding. That shines through in everything you do, & I'm grateful to know you.

    Love & Hugs,

  10. Oh Daisy, your mom can bake a lemon pie for me anytime. I say the same thing, 'who doesn't love lemon pie?'.....must be something wrong with them!!

    Thanks Jannie for the loving thoughts and words. I'm truly appreciating all the heartfelt posts here this month. They sure do lift my wintertime spirits!

    Thanks to all who commented!!
    XO - Max

  11. Great memories; boy oh boy, do I remember doing that table setting too! And of course, the crowd of relatives around the table. It was fun, even though sometimes us kids were regulated to a fold up Samsonite table placed in a spot of the living room that was close to the dining room. Thanks for sharing!