The Savory Pantry is stocked by nine women who take seriously the ability of food to draw those we care about into our kitchens and around our tables, and to create lasting memories. This Mother’s Day week, our Team is packing boxes filled with Mother's Day Gifts and products we hope will bring joy to all the moms who open them on Sunday, and we’re thinking about what it means to honor those women who came before us.
When I consider the best way to invite the women in my family to transcend the barriers of time and mortality, and to gather in my kitchen, the most obvious method is by using their recipes. We all have relationships with recipes that reveal something of our personalities. Is there a pinch or a ¼ teaspoon of salt? Does the dough fail to rise like MeMaw’s because she withheld the addition of baking soda, ensuring her rolls would always be the fluffiest? Do our moms and our daughters prefer to bake with strict guidelines or shy away from recipes as more than inspirations? Maybe they never dirty a pot! Regardless, recipes (including the fingerprints and splashes of gravy and original handwriting on long-saved cards or even lack of any recipes whatsoever) offer little glimpses into the women who sculpted our own culinary habits and made us who we are.
Personally, I follow recipes as guides to shifting and evolving culinary creations, while my mother falls into the execution with precision category. At least that’s what I thought, until I reread the introduction to a cookbook she put together to raise money for her beloved Garland County Historical Society.
In Delicious Memories (2009), my mom writes: “In a hundred ways, home cooking is more creative than a restaurant chef’s rigid menu: when creative home cooks go along in the kitchen, we improvise rather than make the same dish the same way, over and over again.” Maybe our recipe outlooks are more than I thought! Also in her introduction, mom says, “This book of tried-and-true family recipes is intended to tempt its readers to give home cooked meals a second chance. Fewer and fewer people are eating meals at home. Why?” Her desperate question hangs in the air, and I can sense her subdued panic that the center of our collective American home is disappearing.
To me, this is precisely where The Savory Pantry comes in. It gives a leg up to home cooks with busy lives willing (and excited) to improvise. It’s a trusted resource for meal starters and additions that help make life easier and more delicious, and impress with their ingenuity and sheer tastiness. The Savory Pantry offers new flavors to try and brings the knowledge—sometimes developed across generations—of thoughtful producers to our own homes and the homes of those we care about.
This Mother’s Day, when I stand before a pot on my stove, stirring with the same wooden spoon my grandmother used as she stood before her pot on her stove, I’ll think also of the culinary traditions I’m beginning for my four-year-old daughter, the third in our family of cooks named Isabel, who now loves to sit on the counter and “help” prepare meals. I put help in quotes because lots of the ingredients end up on the counter top, but perhaps the most meaningful help she can offer is showing me that she enjoys taking a hand in our meals.
My mom may never get me to bake that pie crust she’s been after me to create for so many years because I just don’t consider baking “my style,” but I thank her for giving me a place in a long line of women who consider it a special daily ritual to spend time in the kitchen and just plain know how to cook.
Above, my great-grandmother Isabel's recipe for Coffee Layer Cake from my mom's cookbook, Delicious Memories.