GUEST COMMENTARY: Not mama's meals
This year I have had one of those monumental birthdays, along with some of my high school classmates and college friends. It has been a great reason to plan parties, weekends away — in general, to celebrate with one another.
As we reflected on our pasts, discussed our “bucket lists,” and laughed at our graying hair and other physical changes, there was a constant theme: We eat differently nowadays! Our kitchens house the written proof in our collection of cookbooks.
We don’t cook like our mothers or grandmothers once did. We don’t even buy the same type of ingredients. We worry about additives, calories, expiration dates. We are programmed to look for fresh ingredients when we shop for food. We cook meat and vegetables on outdoor grills. We have international food ingredients at our fingertips. To be fair, we have a greater selection of food items, and we are constantly reminded of healthy ways to prepare our meals.
Instead of referencing Julia Childs’ cookbooks, we have food networks to watch on television, monthly “cooking light” magazines to subscribe to, and a host of websites on our computers to scrutinize. However, as we have talked about in recent months, the love of cooking and sharing meals with others is something our mothers did pass on to us. Only the recipes have changed.
In recent years my daughters have given me cookbooks like “The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook” by Tosca Reno and “The Primal Blueprint Cookbook” by Mark Sisson. Simply put, they want their mother to eat right and live a healthy life.
Yet the cookbooks of today are a far cry from those of yesterday. I attended an auction recently and purchased an old church cookbook from Emporia, circa 1900. What fun reading! The accompanying ads were just as entertaining. A hardware store selling “stoves, buggies and bicycles,” a lumber yard advertising “lumber, coal and ice” — but back to the recipes in the cookbook.
They were made of one or two very short paragraphs. Marveling at the types of recipes, I found ones for prune pudding, hot slaw, pressed meat, green corn fritters, fried oysters, corn starch cake, and walnut sandwiches. How lovely to read in the general hints section the following statement: “Too much attention can hardly be paid to the dining room and its appointments, for here gather three times a day the family, and here also the invited guests.”
Gathering lakeside a few weeks ago, celebrating with some old high school friends, we grilled chicken breasts, corn on the cob, grazed on a huge bowl of fresh vegetables, and shared a romaine and strawberry salad. Keeping with the birthday mode, we splurged on gourmet cupcakes for dessert. As we sat down to eat together, we celebrated life, our friendship, and the knowledge that healthy eating is important. We somehow knew that our mothers and grandmothers were happy for us. And we for them.
— Laura Williams