Submitted by Vanessa Gillard
As Mother’s day approaches, I’ve been pondering how to incorporate the wonder woman of women into a blog post for The Silk Road. Our mothers and their mothers often have an indelible influence on how we view, cook, and indeed season, our food. The recipes and spices that were used in the kitchens we darted in and out of growing up can become some of our most treasured, and often all one has to do to get back a little of that nostalgia is prepare it how Mom or Grandma used to make it.
With this in mind, we decided to ask the staff at The Silk Road how their moms and grandmas influenced their cooking and their own kitchens.
Jessica, The Silk Road’s resident chef and recipe composer extraordinaire, had this to say about the moms in her life:
“Both my grandmother and mother were great cooks when I was growing up. They made everything from scratch with fresh ingredients, and it left me wanting to learn how to fend for myself, and then some. I went to cooking school and then took classes about nutrition. My decisions were very much influenced by the moms in my life and the wonderful food they made for us.”
Our physicist in training, Claire, remembers the time spent in her mom’s kitchen fondly:
“Somewhere in one of our family photo albums, there is a picture of me, aged 20 months, standing on a stool at our kitchen counter. I’m putting the pastry lids on our Christmas mince pies.
My mum is a wonderful cook, and she went all out for any significant occasion. And my brother and I were never banned from the kitchen – if we wanted to help, she always found something for us to do. I have memories of making countless cookies, placing sealing lids on jars of freshly made jam, peeling chestnuts for turkey stuffing, and figuring out how to dissect tropical fruit for salsas. I spent one memorable Friday evening as a teenager sitting at our dining room table, picking through huge bowls of raisins in preparation for my mum’s quadrennial Christmas cake-making day, with the original Broadway cast recording of Phantom of the Opera blaring so loudly, the china in the sideboard was vibrating.
All this apprenticeship time meant that, even living on my own for the first time, I was never intimidated by the kitchen. During the time that many people spend getting up to speed on the basics, I was able to experiment with new recipes and figuring out what I liked to make and eat for myself. My mother humoured the curious child underfoot in her kitchen, and succeeded in creating an adult who loves spending time in her own.”
Candace, our Store Manager, who also prints food inspired t-shirts in her basement for fun:
“Fishing and hunting were part of my childhood upbringing on Lake of the Woods in Kenora, Ontario, and so I learned how to shoot a rifle and put my own bait on my fishing rod at an early age. We grew up eating fresh filleted fish with our own secret family spice blend, and all sorts of creative sausages and stews made from the leftover cuts of moose and deer. Sunday was spent baking with my Grandma, preparing cinnamon buns, cookies, breads, and all other delights to supply our entire family with yumminess for the week. Little tins were packed up, sent home with me, and enjoyed at every teatime gathering. My Grandparents had the most amazing garden, and we’d spend our days plucking fresh carrots and shucking peas while boiling beets and canning cherries. This disciplined way of eating was passed along to my mom, who was also a great cook. We’d have meal time surprises concocted from the well-stocked pantry and spice cupboard. From a basic tomato sauce to goulash and Asian dishes, she endeavored to impress. She did, however, have a very old and questionable jar of faded paprika in her spice cupboard with zero flavour that occasionally topped a plate of deviled eggs.
My style of cooking is very representative of my upbringing; I try to eat responsibly, use what I have in my pantry, with the only difference being I have a beautiful tin of fresh paprika to sprinkle on my eggs.”
Jenny spent many years cooking professionally and has an inspiring cooking blog, Peace.firstname.lastname@example.org
“When I was a kid I was lucky enough to spend the summers with my grandparents on the East coast. One of my fondest memories is spending dinner time as a family. We would spend all day at the beach and Grammy would yell out the cottage door when lunch or dinner was ready. We would perch ourselves at the picnic table and break bread, as it were. She would make the most amazing dinner rolls to go with almost every meal, but the best part was her lobster stew, usually a lunch treat, which was a cream base with butter, herbs, potatoes and lobster tails. So easy, so rich and so delicious, she still makes it for us when we go back to visit.”
Cheri, The Silk Road’s spice artist and trainee trainer, remembers trips to the market with her mom:
“My cooking passion stems from the way my mom would cook for me and my sister when we were younger. She’s a chef now but when we were young she just had the passion, not the title. I remember always going to the market for fresh vegetables and beautiful cuts of meat. It was amazing to see her in the kitchen effortlessly preparing gourmet meals for us. She really inspired me to do the same for my family and I love her for it.”
Jacqueline, our operations supervisor and illustrator/designer talks about her family traditions:
“When I was growing up, my mother would often make a traditional cherished family dish called Glaec. It’s a simple dish of boiled dumplings with cream, salt and pepper. It is still one of my favourite comfort foods to this day, but I like to spice it up and make it my own. I add chives, marash chiles and sundried tomotoes. I fear that if my mom or any family member reads this they will think its blasphemy, that is, until they try it.”
For my part, my family was a single parent sort, that parent being my mom. She had very little time for putting together meals after she arrived home from work. Coming from a large, meat and potatoes, Saskatchewanian family, her cooking was informed by her mother and her mother’s seven sisters, whom all grew up in the prairies in the Dirty Thirties. This meant fried boloney and Cheese Whiz were staples in my Grandmother’s kitchen and among her children there are numerous notorious stories about the weekly dinner menus.
That being said, my mum was a big fan of what I like to call “dinner in a box,” you know, Hamburger Helper and that sort of thing. But, as I took on the role of babysitter to my younger brother, I eventually became the household cook and I came to look forward to trying new recipes, and, to my brother’s chagrin, I would make a recipe over and over until I felt it was made just right. One week I think we had pancakes for dinner three or four nights in a row, but let me tell you – I can make some amazing pancakes.
If I wanted some ingredients, mom was happy to provide them and she became surprised at what a little wizard I had become in her kitchen. Now, when I visit Mum, it’s usually a given that I am cooking dinner, and I still love seeing if she and my brother will raise their brows and give a little satisfied nod while chowing down on my latest concoction while we catch up. I have all those late nights my mom worked to thank for my love of cooking and, of course, my magnificent mom herself.