Cherished Family Recipes

This time of year brings back memories of days gone by, of loved ones no longer on earth and cherished recipes. Cooking with my mother taught me that food is more than nourishment. Food is family. Food is love. My mother would say “A family’s heart is in the kitchen”. This season as I pull out the old stained recipe book to start baking cookies for Christmas, I find myself waning nostalgic. The sight of her recipe book brings tears to my eyes. I can picture my mother’s hands and hear her voice as I thumb through the butter and vanilla stained pages. Mixed emotions of sadness with loss and many happy memories flood back, now the pages are tear stained too.

Even though it has been 30 years since my mother passed away, this time of year is the hardest to get through. My mother’s recipe book is a bittersweet treasure. While I cherish each page with my mother’s handwriting, it makes me sad for times gone by. I touch the page feeling a connection to her and to the past. This is not just any recipe book. It’s a piece of my past, a labor of love. My mother always said, “Cooking in not work. It’s the pleasure of giving and feeding the people you love that feeds your soul.” 

Christmas has so many magical moments when you’re a child. My favorite memories are helping my mother in the kitchen, whether it was sifting the flour or stirring a sweet concoction. I learned to cook at my mother’s elbow, watching what she did. I have many happy memories of my mother baking delicious confections on special occasions. Living in an Italian household, the only recipes she used were for baking since all the other dishes cooked were from memory and to taste. I can picture her pouring herbs into her hand and adding it to a pot of gravy. Her directions were a pinch of this and a handful of that, nothing was measured because she just knew. Wasn’t it amazing that everything tasted absolutely wonderful without measuring? I believe that was a gift.

Everything changes without a mother. The “glue” of a family is lost. However, being the only daughter, I will make my family’s favorite recipes this Christmas. I’m making pizzelles, lemon knots, and biscotti. These specialties are savored and craved by my mind as well as my taste buds. Just the thought of lemon knots makes my mouth water. 

I cherish her tradition and will keep it alive. Foods are remembered in my mind as well as my heart. I still feel their presence beside me when cooking those special dishes, although she’s been gone for decades. Along with these recipes, I learned about their lives and their past. Cooking together was easier when done together therefore I learned about partnership.  Not only did I learn about grace, courage and compassion, it was a bonding experience. If someone was ill, she sent a dish. If someone had a baby, she sent a dish. If there was a celebration, she cooked and baked. She was always thinking about what everyone needed and how to help or make them happy. Sunday’s family dinner was the highlight of her week. She prepped for days with planning, grocery shopping then food prep of chopping and cooking. The culmination on Sunday when family and friends gathered at her table talking and laughing while eating delicious her food. 

These recipes are cherished, passed down from one generation to the next. They deserve to live on and be passed on. Along with the recipes came the dishes they were served on, grandma’s platter, dad’s pizza pan, mom’s favorite mixing bowl. Handling these items keep the past alive, all that happiness lives on. 

Sooo, take some time, this season, to prepare a cherished recipe and put it in a favorite dish then take a moment to remember and reflect. Not only will you have your dishes filled, your memories will be preserved too. Everything changes and nothing stays the same but these recipes will keep part of our history alive.

❤️Cherish your loved ones. 

🥄 Spend time with family in the kitchen cooking together. 

🥂Raise a glass and toast those who taught us to cook and the love in our hearts. 

🎉Maybe there’s a special dish they used on holidays, resurrect the dish to celebrate a memory of them. 

✨Leave a seat open at the table to remember of our loved ones in heaven. 

🙏🏼I pray you can see life through their eyes and that it keeps your heart open to have a love of family and food! 

Michele Palermo

Michele is a retired registered nurse who spent 15 years in Emergency Medicine. That's where she learned there's a fragility to life. Diagnosed with lupus, after going through a divorce, taught her to be a survivor instead of a victim. With her career shortened by illness she turned to books. She fell in love with the written word as a young child. To her, words convey emotion. Her new passion is writing. As an aspiring author, she hopes to inspire others on this roller coaster called life.

Leave a Reply