“I am more modest now, but I still think that one of the pleasantest of all emotions is to know that I, I with my brain and my hands, have nourished my beloved few, that I have concocted a stew or a story, a rarity or a plain dish, to sustain them truly against the hungers of the world.”
My mother’s favorite author was M.F.K. Fisher, writer about food and France and life; I gave her all her books over the years (and there were always more—that was a joy), and she read and reread them, like nothing else.
I’m glad I had that small way of giving her nourishment, the way she nourished us, her beloved few, with her cooking and home-making over the years. Sustaining us truly. And giving me this lasting joy in cooking things myself, in food that satisfies many of my hungers.
Some of her cooking that I can list off by heart: her yulekage, Norwegian Christmas bread, kneaded in the big wooden bowl (also used for Sunday popcorn), scented with cardamon, rich with candied cherries. Her lefse, Norwegian potato flatbread, which it tickled my father to use instead of tortillas to wrap green chili and pork in. Her jambalaya, with two bay leaves, which she’d make with leftover ham. The simple macaroni with tomato sauce which she and I found immensely comforting. The clam chowder with lots of bacon and potatoes which she made for Christmas Eve. Denver omelettes, eggs with a bunch of things thrown in (pickle, onion, lunchmeat), best slapped between two pieces of white bread for a sandwich, to be dipped in catsup. (Another childhood treat.) Her barbequed brisket, for picnics by a mountain stream; and for the same, bagels with green chili cream cheese from Santa Fe and smoked salmon from Oregon.
I could go on and on, fancy and plain, stews and stories, but it’s making me sad, missing the person and occasions the food conjures. I miss her so, and all those others with us at the table in the dining room or patio or picnic site in Bandelier or Pecos or at Nambe Falls, and am so grateful for the long lifetime of nourishing.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. How I wish you were still with me.
image: Pierre Bonnard (1867-1947) Madame Misia Godebska Natanson 1895