Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

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I really do try to not repeat blogs. But it's Mother's Day, and my blog on my Mom bears repeating. She is coming for Christina's graduation in a couple of weeks, so I will dote on her, spoil her with sweets, and take her to Chicos and Coldwater Creek. After all, what can a grown woman buy her Mom for Mother's Day? Flowers? Perfume? Candy? Well if you thought of any of those, you don't know Jo very well. Jo, as I affectionately call my Mom, just isn't the average mom. She specifically requested no gifts for Mother's Day. She knows that I will likely oblige after the crazy 1,000 miles in 3 days I had. But she also knows that this blog is more my idea of a Mother's Day card.

Married at 19, she and my Dad have been together 57 years. I am the youngest of 5 kids that are all pretty well adjusted and happily married. Proud grandparents of 11 grandchildren she never misses an occasion to email them, drop them a note or a message on Facebook, yep, she's on. She was an early entrepreneur, and owned a "figure salon" back in the 70's. It was the first generation health club, only women, with belts and rollers and she would lead an exercise class to an album she had. She has always been a volunteer and writer and at the age of 70 she graduated from college with her BA in Creative Writing. These days you are likely to find her volunteering at the Salvador Dali museum in Florida. So how about a tribute blog for Mother's Day? After all, she must be part of the reason I am a devoted writer, a good cook and a good mom. Here's to you Jo.

I was a lucky kid growing up in a small Iowa town. My mom was no June Cleaver, but she did do it all. She sewed beautifully and had the most adorable sewing room. It was a small round room in our old English Tudor house. She made clothes for herself, for us kids and for Barbie!

Baking in my memory was my mom handing my older sisters and I the Betty Crocker Cooky Book, Copyright 1963, and I still have it. It is taped together, but the stained pages are filled with notes on the recipes we made as a kid. Chocolate Drop Cookies: good, Brown Sugar Drops: good, Pumpkin Cookies: 9/24/76 Excellent, couldn't go skating. I remember that day like yesterday. She told me to clean my room so I could go to the skating party with my class. I crammed everything in my closet, and she found it! I was sooo mad I couldn't go roller skating, it was the one opportunity to hold hands with a boy! So she suggested I make cookies, and I did. Amazingly I soon forgot about the party I missed, and I will never forget that night.
It very well may have launched my passion for baking, but it certainly started my journaling. I have never been a devoted journalist. I have tried, especially after the kids were born, to keep a journal. My method is from that night in 1976. Every cookbook I own has handwritten entries when I make the recipes. It could be as simple as the date and my substitutions, or a note about the events of the day. Our Sloppy Joe recipe that my family loves was first made when Nic broke his leg. I have a chicken and apple dish I made for our last dinner party in Michigan before we moved. And of course the many cake recipes I've made for birthdays over the years.

My Mom's cookbooks were also filled with letters, photos, notes and invitations. There was no rhyme or reason for where she tucked these, but they were forever encapsulated in her cookbooks. You'll find the same things in mine. In Betty's Cooky Book is a note that declares "if Susie dies before Lori (she's my sister), Lori gets this book". Nice, right? But other books are filled with notes from my kids, hand drawn pictures, postcards, wedding invites, small bits of my life that get tucked in only to be found one day when I am looking for a recipe.

My Mom also always put her name in her books. It didn't matter if it was a cookbook, a paperback or a hard bound novel, her distinct signature is on page one. One year she gave me The New Basics Cookbook and wrote me a note on the inside cover. "Grand Rapids, March 18, 1990. To Susie, a great cook, from your teacher. Love, Mom" That book is falling apart at the binding, spilling out hand made cards, Hallmarks, handwritten menus and novenas. I have a brand new copy on hand, but have never used it, there is too much history in that well used book. Christmas Eve Dinner 1995 is found on page 498, Waffles from Easter 1992 on page 452, and in Jan. 1997 we had a snow day in Memphis, it was a Friday and we baked Olive Bread, page 616.

In 1992 my Mom must have gotten tired of handwriting the family recipes every time one of us misplaced one. For Christmas that year she gave us all a cookbook called The Kitchen on Market Street. The kitchen in the big old house on the corner of 10th and Market is the setting for this book. This is where my Mom grew up and how she paid tribute to her Mom, but unfortunately Grandma was no longer with us. The book is filled with recipes and stories from her childhood and even from motherhood. So I have decided to honor my Mom, my Grandma and my heritage. I bounced the idea off my sisters, and they are in. Guess what Jo? We are writing our own cookbook as a tribute to you, as a way to document these memories and pass them on to our kids someday.

I had hoped when I first published this in 2009 that I would be published and on every bookshelf in America with my cook book. But the truth is, I have started it, and it is very difficult to write a cook book. I am the classic "throw together" chef. I can make a family recipe and then it dawns on me that I didn't measure anything and never set a timer. Wouldn't that make an interesting book? But I am plugging away. I know that eventually my Mom's little notes, cards and letters will find their way into the pages of this book as well. Happy Mother's Day!


  1. Oh Susie, what a great tribute to your mother. I can't wait to purchase the cook book. I often use your recipes when I am looking for something new.

  2. That was a beautiful Mother's Day gift.
    It is so hard writing a cook book that actually has GOOD recipes. Keep going, it will be worth it in the end, or do as I did. Make it the way you always do then quickly write down what you think the measurements are and give it to a friend to make- this helped me a lot as I write recipes after I've made the dish!

  3. Ok, let's get cooking on that Cook Book sister!

  4. Susie, I always love reading your blogs and I especially love learning about your Mom. What a wonderful woman!! I know how much her love and support all these years must mean to you!!
    I am so glad she is here with you now!!! Enjoy this time!
    I can't wait to get your book.
    I also have all my Mom's recipes and favorite cookbooks and well worn hand written treasured recipes from all our growing up years. I hope to get them in some organized form to pass on to my 5 siblings and their kids too! We are the lucky ones!!!