To Mother Cooks

March 6, 2009

Whatever else is unsure in this stinking dunghill of a world a mother’s love is not.
~James Joyce

March is Women’s History Month—a reminder that each of us owe an oft failed tribute to the cherished mother cooks who tirelessly prepare our most comforting fare. Their daily contributions to the world’s kitchens and tables over time deserve our solemn, endless gratitude. With their gentle, confident hands on the spoon and enticing kitchen aromas passed from generation to generation, they reawaken the past and make the present more real. Shared with kin, friends, and community their food alone has magically transformed our palates, beings and souls. Mother food also serves as a constant protector of cherished customs from old homelands which are now far away, helping varied cultures renew and preserve ethos.

How can we aptly honor or even humbly thank people with such ubiquitous, harmonious legacies?

In an almost bizarre incongruity, with mothers manning most every home kitchen, some 90% of executive chefs in restaurants are men. While there has been increased presence of women chefs in restaurant kitchens over the past few decades, it still seems odd that Anne-Sophie Pic is in exclusive company as the only female named as a three-star Michelin French chef in over a half century. Yes, there are other supreme doyennes, such as Julia Child, Alice Waters, Elena Arzak, et al—deities in my book—who have steadfastly, even fiercely, guided our collective culinary conscience. But, men still tend to be the roosters in restaurant kitchens (keep in mind the wicked, off hours demanded of female chefs who may be of child bearing age who find themselves making that “life decision”). All this restaurant machismo and testoserone does little to diminish the eternal, unforgettable contribution of everyday, but far from banal, mother cooks. There is a reason that most great male chefs tip their collective toques to their mothers and grandmothers. Even us lowly lay cooks bow in inspirational reverence.

What makes mother cooks so consecrated, and why are their works such things of beauty? Women generally tend to savor the sights, scents, flavors, sounds and textures of life which are transmuted to fertile food. They are more haptic, richly sensuous, possessing the ingrained feminine impulses to share, coddle, sustain, nourish and develop. Their meals are not ego driven—rather they are tranquil feasts with attention to minute detail beyond the rush of life’s everyday chaos. The kitchen intuition of mother cooks is almost unparalleled. Their successes are measured in devotion, reminiscence and nuturing. Mother cooks will always remain the true grands cuisinièrs.

Thanks, Mom…for teaching me the earthly delights of offal and language, among other things.

And Amelia, I have not done you justice.

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2 Responses to “To Mother Cooks”

  1. 50 Says:

    Cooking Kitchen Supplies…

  2. alaycook Says:

    Thanks for your interest. For kitchen ware, take a look at the early posts entitled “Into the Kitchen Window” and “A Cupboard Not Bare”


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