My mom was one of the best cooks, ever. No matter what your palate preferred, her gifted touch made everything even better than the best of your favorites.
“Be generous” was one of her hallmarks of cooking. “You don’t want to skimp on the good stuff.”
Her measurements were always a “big pinch of…” “a heaping spoon of…” “throw in a handful of…” If a recipe called for a cup of nuts or other options, she’d add a cup and a half.
That generosity spilled over into how she served her food. For instance, a regular-sized pie (9 inches) was cut into quarter pieces so that each person received a fourth of a pie on a plate. Then she’d offer ice cream or whipped cream, or if it was her famous apple pie, she offered a hunk of cheddar cheese to go on top.
Church socials have always been a big deal here in the Ozarks. Potluck dinners weigh down tables, and there is always enough food to feed everyone for at least three meals. I recall how the menfolk of our church stood near the door of the fellowship hall, watching what the women toted in. They were waiting to see what Mama and some of the other great cooks brought because that’s the food they wanted. Mama never took home leftovers because every dish she’d taken had been scraped clean, down to the last bite.
Growing up, I asked her to show me how to prepare various foods, but she was busy and always said, “It’s easier if I just do it myself.”
So, although as a grown woman I’d insist she show me how to make this and that, I did not learn many of her secrets. But I did conquer biscuits and gravy, fluffy mashed potatoes, seasoned green beans, chicken ’n dressing, and pie crust. I’m pretty good at making those because I stood at her elbow with a pen and paper and wrote down every ingredient, every motion, every remark, but I am nowhere her equal in the kitchen and never will be.
I’ve had a lot of good food in my life, prepared by a lot of great cooks, but I will vow and declare to my dying day, my mama was the best cook ever.