Monday, January 3, 2011

Cooking Inspiration

My mom is who inspired me to cook. When I was very young she had me and my sisters in the kitchen. Preparing meals was always a family affair.

                            Me, Leslie (older sister), & mom in the kitchen preparing New Year's meal

Today I am sharing with you cooking through my mom's eyes where her cooking inspiration began.

Out with the New; In with the Old?

This title for Whitney's previous blog writing started my creative writing juices to flowing. Whitney had been reading prarie stories and I had been reading an Amish story over the Christmas holidays. All the descriptions of the simple lifestyle and especially the homecooked breads, desserts, and meals reminded me of my grandparents (Whitney's great-grandparents) and earlier times. A widely used phrase today is "Farm to Table."  The idea behind this was nothing new to me; this was exactly how I grew up.  Both sets of grandparents lived on farms, raised animals for meat, and always had a garden.  One of my fondest memories is of my grandma (McCarter) with her thin flowered dress and bonnet, hoeing the rows of cabbages and other vegetables in her garden. In my mind, she was a real pioneer.  When dining at Grandma's house, meals would include iron-skillet cornbread with fresh churned butter, a large variety of vegetables from the garden, and inevitably some terrific dessert such as homemade apple crisp made with apples from Grandma's tree or a berry cobbler made with berries I had picked earlier in the day. Grandma's meals could not have been more fresh!  She milked a cow and made her own butter.  At one time, I can remember a hog being raised for bacon and ham.  Eggs were gathered from the chickens. Fruit was picked from a variety of fruit trees: apple, pear, and peach. Grandma was very frugal, having lived during the Depression.  Any foods that were not used immediately were preserved in some way, whether it be canning or freezing. Also, I can remember Grandma often having a pot of soup on the stovetop, a great way of incorporating any timy bits of leftover vegetables. This  hot soup combined with her crusty cornbread and cool and crunchy coleslaw made for a filling and comforting meal. Grandma never had any formal chef training, but her food was truly great Southern cuisine. Inspired by the stories I have read, memories of my grandparents, and the not so new back to basics trends, I have set about making memories of my own with Whitney in the kitchen.  She and I have tag-teamed to try and invent the best butter cake recipe. On the first try, mine turned out basically perfect but lacking the depth of flavor I wanted.  Whitney cooked the next one, with a few changes, producing great flavor but still not quite what she or I wanted in texture. The challenge continues, but along the way, memories are being made, lessons learned, and a content feeling gained from doing things the old-fashioned way.  

By guest blogger,
Mary (Whitney's mom)

Thanks mom for always being patient when teaching me to cook when I was younger. Thank you for now being my right hand "woman" with recipe testing. Lastly, thank you for being my traveling buddie. I know you enjoy eating our way through our travels as much as I do.


  1. Very inspirational :).

    Thanks for sharing.

  2. it never fails to warm my heart whenever i hear stories of mother and daughter. this, i must say, is the best post so far! kudos, whitney!

  3. I wanted to wish Whitney and her family a happy new year. and I look forward to You're cooking in 2011. =)

    you are a Big Inspiration to me.
    take care

  4. Really inspirational story.. :)
    Like it..

  5. I really love your blogs. It inspires me so much to pursue what I've started before. I hope you could come here in the Philippines to taste our dishes..

  6. I have enjoyed reading your blogs. Mary, you do have a gift for writing. (Perhaps, I envision you writing a book about cooking or heritage of a family chef?) I read the blog about your grandmother (McCarter). Mary, this brought back wonderful memories of my Grandma Stringer, who was such a wonderful cook. She and Grandpa had a farm much the same way that you described in your blog. We picked blackberries out in the woods, and she would make a mouth-watering blackberry cobbler. We caught fish in her pond, cleaned the fish, and she pan fried them. Yumm. I saw her wring a chicken's neck one time, pluck the feathers, and prepare it for cooking. In the yard were several kinds of fruit trees from which she gathered fruit to can or cook in desserts. She absolutely loved to cook and would fix a spread for people that stopped by: friends, relatives,and strangers. I often told her that she should open a restaurant, but she said she could never charge them for the food.
    I need to get back to these roots and remember what she taught me about cooking and hospitality. I absolutely need to start cooking more!!!! Your family has inspired me to do this. And I thank you. Happy Cooking to you all!!!!

  7. Congrats on winning Master Chef absolutely deserved it. You are amazing in not only your cooking skills but in the imagination you put into your recipes. I can't wait to see that recipe book of yours and good luck with the culinary business!

  8. Is your mom reading Beverly Lewis? She has a great cookbook in addition to her Amish fiction! ; )