by Chef Samantha
The Sunday before last was Mother’s Day, and I could not have been more happy. My mother came down to our side of town and joined us for church service, and then we ate a meal of roasted pork loin with a chili, dijon and brown sugar glaze, potatoes au gratin and creamed peas topped off with a bittersweet chocolate tart for dessert. After lunch, I whipped up a batch of my famous Italian butter cream frosting and went down to the farmers market to promote our business. It was inspiring to see child after child come up to our booth and be so excited to decorate a cupcake for their mom. We planned for the cupcakes to be small presents from kids to their mothers. It turns out, the children enjoyed them just as much – coming back for seconds, thirds, fifths, crumbles of cake and frosting clinging to the corners of their little mouths. Many children made it a team activity and decorated with their parents, brothers and sisters. Watching the smiling faces and the love being shared over these simple little cakes made my heart warm and brought to mind all the memories my mother and I made standing over our stove cooking together.
Mother’s Day Cupcake Decorating
Me and Mom
This last week, after Mother’s Day, I meditated on the importance of family and friends and the role food plays in bringing them all together. I guess you could say I got a little nostalgic and, okay, maybe a little sappy. I remember, as a kid, making chicken n’ dumplins with my mom and Hungarian goulash with my dad. My brother and I would take turns sneaking into the kitchen behind my mother’s back, dipping our two pointer fingers deep in cookie dough and racing back to eat it in our hiding place. At Christmastime, we would all smell of Swedish meatballs for days after our family’s Christmas Eve dinner of 15 pounds of balled beef, pork, onion and allspice. I remember making giant batches of fresh salsa in my Nana’s green mixing bowls and grilling London broils on Sunday afternoons after church. Then there were my friends who lived across the street from me and all the inedible concoctions we dared each other to eat. One time, my best friend Holly and I had an epic culinary debate. Imagine us standing in front of a tall butcher’s block, each holding two completely different but commonly used cooking utensils. We were baking our first chocolate cake and faced a huge delimma. The recipe called for us to add two teaspoons of water into the cake batter. I was holding a teaspoon in the air, clutching the rest of the measuring spoons in the palm of my hand, trying my best to convince her that my utensil measured the correct amount of water for the recipe. She strongly disagreed, as she waved a long, silver spoon in the air like a judge with his gavel. Finally, after arguing until we were both red in the face, I gave up. She used her spoon instead of mine to measure the water. We mixed the batter and, with a slight self-satisfied grin on my face, we slid it into the oven for twenty minutes and waited. When we heard the ding, I sat back on my chair, waiting for her surprise. Slowly, slowly, Holly pulled the cake from the oven and and set it on the counter. Ahhh! What a nice, warm bowl of wiggly-jiggly pudding it was! I will never forget the look on her face when she turned around, beet red, and shouted, “This is a teaspoon! We use it to stir our tea all the time!” We ended up serving it to her older sisters, her parents and my other best friend, Holly’s younger sister Leah, who we forced to eat all kinds of gross things. In the end, all that was left were two bitter six-year-olds and an Easy Bake Oven. I don’t think we ever turned that hundred-watt lightbulb on again.
When I think of family and friends, I look back on the many times we were around a table or a grill on the porch, cooking and eating. Food was a huge part of every occasion whether it was a holiday or a birthday or even those occasions which were less joyous. I have a friend who would bake homemade scones, make tea sandwiches, lemon curd, clotted cream and pots of hot tea for herself and her children when her husband was away on a business trip. They were “pity parties,” she told me, as it was one of the few things that lifted their spirits when they were missing their dad and husband.
Food is one of the greatest blessings in life. I am blessed to have a mother and father who were able to give me such a good childhood, surrounded with food, music and love. Many children are not so fortunate to have the time and resources I had. Cherished are the moments spent cooking with my family, and it made me burst with joy to be able to share that with others last Sunday. Even though it was only decorating a cupcake, I saw so many children and parents light up with happiness as they bonded over this tiny, simple, sweet delight. It makes me yearn for the day I will have my own children and impart the joy and love of food to the next generation.
In closing, please take special care to appreciate your family and friends and the moments you share. I was fortunate to have my mother here with me last Sunday; sadly, there are those who were not able to be with their mothers. I encourage you all to think back on the memories made with your loved ones. Let those memories open your heart to truly love and endear those who are still with you. Take the time and effort to create those precious memories, for no one is promised a tomorrow. And remember… food is family, food is friends, food is life, and food is always, always, love.
Samantha Rensel is the owner of Savory Celebration with her husband and holds an associates degree in culinary arts and a bachelors in culinary business management from the Culinary Institute of America in New York. She interned at the famous Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, where she worked with world class chefs and developed a diverse portfolio of restaurant experience. More recently, she moved back to Houston, Texas where she was the front of the house manager for Central Market. She specialized in working with customers who requested specialized and customized products and services.