Monday, May 11, 2009

A Roundabout Mother's Day Story

Though my parents will never admit to this, they had big plans in mind when they named me after a chef. "That's right," they said, "He'll be our live-in cook, and it won't cost us a dime!"

And so it goes: I grew up in the kitchen, my life dictated by the rhythms of breakfast, lunch and dinner. I learned the intricacies of holiday meal planning while my friends were learning to count: polishing the silver and making individualized place cards for our numberless and mammoth family gatherings. I was cooking for my family before I could read. But am I bitter? Lemon curd is bitter too.

As a mini gourmet, food was magical; food was creative; food was addictive…and I loved it. Flash forward a few years. I'm a serious, artistic fifteen, still in the kitchen, happily baking my first baguettes and meringues when a voice comes calling from the bedroom upstairs: “David! Company’s coming! Get your ass in the kitchen.”

And so it goes.
. . .

On a visit to our parents’ house last week, my older sister Sara and I find a very telling photo: we are twelve and seven years old, grinning at the camera and showing off our very first cake. Joy of Cooking, the double-layer yellow cake – serves eight to twelve – recipe for icing on the following page.

In the photo, the pink frosted flowers we so carefully piped on a white icing background – are perfect.
. . .

I’m 25 now, with several years of professional kitchen experience under my belt. Sara, the FCI graduate, has been a pastry chef for more than a dozen. More than once – sometimes two, three, and frequently four times – a month, we still head down to Jersey to cook a meal for our family. Because that’s what we were raised to do.
. . .

So what does this all have to do with Mother’s Day? Well first, I’m grateful for my childhood in the kitchen and the careers that it has led Sara and I to. And, as such well-trained house servants-cum-gourmands, we spent several weeks deciding on the appropriate menu for this years Mother’s Day lunch, shooting each other e-mails, talking it out over dinner and by phone, and finally squabbling on the train ride to Jersey.

We came. We cooked. They ate all of it. Before we were done cooking.

And I thought: how appropriate for Mother’s Day.

At least I managed to take some pictures before they ate.

Pate de Campagne

Assorted Cheeses with figs, grapes, guava paste and cornichons


Croques Monsieurs
Grilled Brie and Guava Paste

Goat Cheese Tart with Caramelized Onions and Cherry Tomatoes

Salade Nicoise

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

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