Food and Culture at Raven
A Taste of Family History
by Sheri McGregor
"Use a potholder," I tell my son, handing him the padded square of denim and rose-patterned fabric.
Together, we're making Cocoa Mounds, one of the few recipes preserved from my childhood. He stirs in the oatmeal and peanut butter, memorizing their proportions. This recipe, along with these happy moments, will survive the generations. I'm making sure of it.
Family recipes are like traditions, preserving memories we take into adulthood and pass on to our own children. They build a bridge between the past and present, linking family members through the ages.
My siblings and I hold different memories of our mother, but many of our recollections share a common thread. We all see her in the kitchen, cooking those favorite meals we wish she were here to cook today, or serving the hot breakfasts that she always insisted on before school.
One breakfast was as rich with my mother's own memories as it was in taste and calories. On cold winter mornings, she prepared what she called "chocolate biscuits," a cherished dish handed down from her own grandmother. My mother reminisced about her childhood as she cooked, a tolerant smile gracing her face as she carefully strained out even the slightest lump from the rich chocolate syrup. Then she'd slather it over drop biscuits, pools of golden, melted butter swirling atop each one.
My brother closest to me in age has this same favored memory. He even told me of an overnight visit with my parents as an adult. "She asked me what my family wanted for breakfast," he remembers fondly. His choice? Chocolate biscuits. She made them for him and his family, that same joy of serving evident in her manner. She called the dish "stick to your ribs" food, making a white gravy version to please my father, and thinking of her own past days of farm life filled with heard work and sweat.
Ask my sister and my oldest brother the food they remember and miss the most, and they're quick to say it's Mom's homemade pies. They remember the flaky crusts rolled and pinched to perfection, along with the fillings that always came out creamy and delicious regardless of the fact that the ingredients were never measured.
I remember Mom pulling those pies from the oven at every family gathering, her burn-tattered pot holders clasped tightly in hand. Even our distant relatives miss those pies. Since Mom's passing over a decade ago, the countertop stands empty where those homemade chocolate and coconut cream confections once resided, a vivid symbol of her absence. We no longer have my mother and, sadly, most of the foods she lovingly prepared - unwritten recipes recollected from her own poor, farm-girl childhood - have died with her.
Traditions evolve and change, but families must remember to take the time while they have it to learn the recipes seasoned with love and history that make up their particular family tree. By doing so, they preserve the sweetness of the past for the generations of the future. My own family has the memories we can taste in our minds, but only a handful of the actual recipes we partook of heartily as children.
As my son hands back the homemade pot holder I've fashioned from my mother's favorite dress, a sense of peace falls over me. Through this recipe we're following together, my mother - my history - lives on.