In today’s food section, we celebrate the many ways we love our moms through food.
Maggie C. Perkins tells a funny, poignant tale about the turnip greens she and her young daughters couldn’t bear to eat, and Lee Stokes Hilton shares what goes through her head when her son calls from the grocery store to ask how to make chicken soup.
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Memories are as comforting as the food itself, but in Shefaly Ravula’s case (you can read her story below), her mother wants to bond over the comfort food itself. Particularly, her favorite Tex-Mex and Indian comfort food, dishes Ravula doesn’t usually make. Now she wants to learn how. Below, you’ll find Shef’s story, in her own words, one of four Mother’s Day pieces we ran in the paper today.
The fourth was a love note to my own mother, who is caring for my dad, her husband of 46 years, as cancer ravages his body. Through applesauce muffins, I could tell you about the painful yet resilient year she’s had since losing her own mother last fall.
With the bitter comes the sweet, and Shef’s story encompasses both, as well. Everybody has a mom food story to share, and I’d love to read yours. Email me at email@example.com or share it in the comments.
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Heading back into Mom’s kitchen to learn her favorite foods
My mom’s brother passed away last year in India. Ceremoniously, as part of our family’s Hindu tradition, a dinner is hosted a few days after a death and the family members cook all the favorites of the deceased. In Houston, where I grew up, my mom and aunt hosted this dinner and cooked his favorite dishes from Gujarat, the region where my parents are from.
After some time passed, my mother was visiting us in Austin. While we were in the kitchen and I was making a light lunch for us, a simple potato leek soup and an avocado and heart of palm salad, my mother turned to me and asked me to visit her.
She specifically wanted me to come to apprentice to learn how to cook. Totally caught off guard, I said to her, “Um, Mom! I already learned everything I know about cooking from you when I was 10!” She said to me, “You learned your favorite comfort foods, not mine.”
That gave me pause. As the primary cook in my family’s life, I’ve chosen to not cook or serve some of those foods that I ate growing up for various reasons, mostly because I want improved nutritional value. The Indian foods she taught me turned into recipes I wrote for my initial cooking classes, but when it comes to her comfort foods, I likely am not an expert. My mom loves my cooking, which is a variety of global foods and learned American food, but she wants to make sure I’ve learned her comfort foods, too.
When I’m sick, I might prefer a brothy, briny soup, or a ghee-laden khichari, or a bowl of resplendent pasta oozing with cream and butter, all comforting either because of the warmth and fattiness of the food, or because of the nostalgia the food brings me in times of illness.
Comfort to one generation is not necessarily comfort to another, so, as part of an ode to Mother’s Day, I’m going to intern with her this year and learn her favorites: starchy Gujarati favorites like dhokla, dal dhokli and khichi (not to be confused with khitchari), but also Tex-Mex dishes such as nachos and tostadas, and baked potatoes done her way, twice-baked and smothered in hot butter and cold cottage cheese. I won’t adapt these recipes to my taste. I’ll write them as she likes them, so I can recreate them in her time of need.
— Shefaly Ravula, Shef’s Kitchen