Potato dumplings, Polish sausage, stuffed cabbage and flavorful gravies… Polish chicken, homemade breads and mounds of buttered mashed potatoes… Polish noodles, pierogi, kolacky, candied sweet potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and baked beans, the list goes on and on.
Maybe Mom’s cooking wasn’t the healthiest thing for us, but it sure was good for the soul. As her labor of love simmered on the stove-top, teasing aromas wafted through the house causing the stomach to growl and mouth to water. Every life event was either celebrated or mourned at the kitchen table. Mom’s comfort food soothed our bad days, reinforced our happy ones and marked the mile posts of our lives.
Today nutritionists tell us we ate far too much high cholesterol food back then; too much starch and too much white flour… we probably did. But it was real food, not processed. It didn’t come from a laboratory; it came out of Mom’s kitchen. Summer favorites like fried green tomatoes, cucumber salads, strawberry rhubarb pie, buckets of green beans and way too much squash from Dad’s garden were regularly on the menu. Garden fresh vegetables and home baked breads were the norm at our house, and our family always ate the supper meal together…always.
Families don’t make time to sit together and talk like they did back then. Supper is no longer the bonding experience it once was. Mom and Dad taught us from around that table. We learned good manners, thankfulness, sacrifice, appreciation, and most of all we experienced what it was like to be loved. We learned to laugh at each other, cry with each other and forgive each other.
My sister’s family put together a book, Mary’s Favorite Recipes. It’s more than a collection of recipes, it’s a memoir. Flipping through the pages I am reminded of our family of seven crowded around a table that just barely held six people. Sitting next to my left-handed little sister who insisted on the chair to my right so she could be next to Mom, we locked elbows as we struggled to bring forks to our mouths. Dad sitting at the head of the table would fill his plate and then as if he was scanning the table top for one more entrée he’d ask, “Did I miss anything Mom?”
Mom’s recipe book takes me on a nostalgic journey back to an innocent time. While I can’t go back to days gone by, I can create continued memories for my daughters and granddaughters that will hopefully stay close to their hearts long after I’m gone.
I think it’s time for a “good ole fashion” Grandma Mary family supper with all the trimmings, lots of real butter and Hollywood cheese cake for dessert… good conversation is sure to follow.