Since I was five years old, my mother worked full-time in order to help make ends meet for our large family. This was in the days before microwaves and a wide variety of prepackaged foods. It was also long before the days when you could easily buy in bulk at a Costco or Sam’s Club. When she got home from a long work day, she’d make dinner from scratch for all of us. She is an amazing cook but what is even more amazing and confounding to me now is how she managed to do this day after day without complaint and without recourse to eating out and many other conveniences we rely on today.
She loves to cook and she loves grocery shopping, so that helped. She also loves variety and because of her skills, we grew up enjoying many different types of food from all over the world. We learned to be polite and try something before declaring it “bad” or “good.” I recall one time that she took a class in sushi making and introduced us to that. As a child, that was about the only thing I ever turned my nose up at, but as an adult, I really enjoy good sushi. She instilled in all of her children the lasting love of good food, served family style, with all of us sitting together around our big dining room table. She also made sure that all of her children not only enjoyed food but that they learned how to make it themselves.
Even today when we get together as a family, a lot of our conversation revolves around food. Today it mostly happens via a group chat, but still, we swap stories about food we’ve had that we enjoyed, along with photos whenever possible. My mother is the one most responsible for this and I am forever grateful to her, and at the same time, I am awestruck by how she did it for all those years.
Most of the time, we didn’t have a lot of money. My mother excelled at making things stretch as necessary, and relied on many good money-saving techniques to provide for us all. For example, she made excellent and varied use of chicken wings. She grew lots of things in the garden as well and used them in her cooking. She could make more things out of ground beef than you could shake a stick it. If we had stale hamburger buns or leftover hotdog buns, my mother would make them into rusks as a delicious snack.
In fact, it’s the last point that inspired me to write this post because this a.m., I made a toasted leftover hotdog bun into a rusk and it made me think of my mother.
Again, I don’t know how she did it all, but I am forever grateful to her.