I grew up the youngest of six kids in Birmingham, MI, a suburb of Detroit. My mom was (and still is) an amazing cook and homemaker. She always made each meal special and each night the table was set and we had dinner as a family.
On Sundays and other special occasions, we’d have dinner in the dining room or if it was a bigger gathering, we’d be in the family at the really big table.
Candles were always lit at dinner and we used cloth napkins, a tradition Bill and I carry on no matter what night of the week. Mom always had some kind of centerpiece. How she found the time to do it all still amazes me to this day!
She involved us in the cooking process (only if we wanted to be involved) and I never remember anyone complaining about anything she made. Well, that’s not 100% true. One time my sister and I begged her to make Hamburger Helper. I don’t even want to now think about all of the processed grossness that must be in that box. Anyway, it must have been the ads on tv with the BIG hand waving and the kids being all happy at dinner time. Mom gave in and made it one night. It was HORRIBLE. I always wondered if it was really that bad or if she doctored it up somehow so she knew we wouldn’t like it and we’d never ask for it again. I remember thinking to myself, “I wonder if this is what dog food tastes like?” Needless to say, we never asked and mom never made it again.
But really, she was a genius in the kitchen. When I said the no one ever complained? I asked her about that once… how did she do it? She told me that she knew what everyone enjoyed and one day each week she made something that someone would like. She figured at least one person would be happy each day because she knew she could never please all of us all the time. Although I suspect she pretty much did that because her cooking is fantastic.
She was ahead of her time too. Somehow she got her hands on old tin tv dinner trays. Not the disposable ones, but real metal ones. It seemed like we had dozens stacked in our basement, although I’m sure it wasn’t that many. But what she would do was after dinner was over, she would portion the leftovers into the trays and make her own customized tv dinners for us. They would always be stacked in the freezer in the basement. When she and my father would be heading out to a dinner party or hockey game, I remember loving that before the babysitter came, we would run down and pick out our dinner. They were all different and extremely tasty, because of course, they were homemade.
Every holiday was special and one of my favorite times of the year would be before Christmas when mom would make my grandmother’s sour cream sugar cookies and we’d get to decorate them.
We’d get home from school to the aroma of the freshly baked cookies and after dinner, she’d set us up with frosting in several colors, sprinkles and other decorations to complete the task.
Every holiday meal was an elegant affair and normally included several guests in addition to our 8. Mom always pulled it together flawlessly and never expressed an ounce of stress. When I was a teenager she put on an Easter brunch each year for around 30 hungry hockey players and their families. She did that party 16 years in a row and averaged over 100 guests each time.
It’s because of her and my father and their love of entertaining that inspired Bill and I to host several events each year. One thing I am looking forward to is hosting dinner parties. We’ve done a handful but I’d like to add more to our lineup. They are fun, a great way to entertain without the noise and rush of being in a restaurant. Plus, it’s a lost art that I think needs to come back into fashion. Stay tuned for my ideas on those!