It wasn’t until I went to college when I learned that not all moms were good cooks. Or that mothers did laundry. Like her mother, my mother worked, but still cooked dinner every night when she got home. Sometimes it was as simple as pork ribs brushed with soy sauce and baked, or shrimp stuffed with seasoned bread crumbs. Although not as ‘fancy’, my favorite were English muffin pizzas we made in the GE toaster oven which called for a spoonful of tomato sauce, a few drips of olive oil, mozzarella, and a dusting of dried oregano.

There likely are people out there that would have a kiniption and race to the internet to send my mother a link to prove that what she was making us wasn’t really pizza. That one had to have a special pizza stone to make authentic pizza, you had to make the dough from scratch and the tomatoes had to be from your garden instead of the can of Hunt’s, which all didn’t really matter anyways because if you didn’t have a wood-fired oven, you didn’t have the right to call it pizza in the first place. But back then, it was just about getting dinner on the table and feeding us. That was all she had to prove.

(The only time I ever had frozen dinners was when my parents went out and left me alone, and I was mesmerized by TV dinners, which were new. I was particularly fond of the one with fried chicken, as well as the roast turkey dinner, where you peeled back the foil from the cobbler midway during baking to crisp it up. My life changed when they introduced boxes of frozen fried chicken, so we bought just that since the stuffing and mashed potatoes were unnecessary accompaniments.)

My mother didn’t cook anything fancy, but it always tasted good. And when I went to college, the first thing I remember is how few guys in my dorm knew how to do their own laundry; their mothers had always done it for them. My mother was no fool, and taught me and my sister how to do all that stuff so she wouldn’t have to do it all herself.

I was also really surprised when other guys in my dorm told me how terrible their mother’s cooking was. I guess I lucked out. And I’m sure none of them ever had a mother who would put on a skirt that she tie-dyed, pull on a pair of cowboy boots, and grab her Louis Vuitton handbag to drive to a farm in Vermont and shear sheep, then clean and spin the wool all weekend with a bunch of hippies.

One thing she cooked infrequently was a big roast beef with potatoes and lima beans. We never had fresh, dried, or canned limas, but she would buy boxes of the frozen beans at the Stop & Shop supermarket and roast them in the beef fat until they were darkly caramelized and very, very crisp on the outside. But just inside the hard shell, they were soft and creamy inside. I think each box held nearly a pound of limas and she’d figure one box per person, since that what each of us would eat. So today, I think it’s odd when people say to me, “I can’t stand lima beans.” When guests came for dinner and waved away just the thought of lima beans, my mother would say, with a dash of cheerful sarcasm—”That’s okay. More for us!”

haricots tarbais

The British have a reputation for cooking thing in beef fat and while I’ve never tried to recreate my mother’s lima beans, when I got my hands on copy of the new book Plenty from Ottolenghi in London, each and every recipe looked like something I wanted to make immediately. But I landed on the page for Fried Butterbeans with Feta, Sorrel and Sumac and decided that was something I needed to make today.

So I rinsed some white beans to get them ready for cooking, then went to the market to gather ingredients to make the recipe. I was able to find almost everything, except sumac. So after I stop at the spice market tomorrow, I’ll get to it and post it on the site later this week.

Since I couldn’t cook today, I went online to catch up on e-email and messages, and realized that it was Mother’s Day in America. My mother passed away over a decade ago and what was especially sad was that she’d spent her whole life working and raising a family, but I don’t think she ever really got to do what she wanted. Her generation was bound by a few constraints that have since been lifted. (She got sent home from work one day for wearing culottes; women were only allowed to wear skirts.) I don’t think she would’ve packed up everything and moved abroad like I did, but I have a feeling she wanted to do more with her life than she did before she was gone.

Eventually she did get over the fact that her son wasn’t going to be a doctor. And she did teach me how to tie-dye, bought me a pair of Frye boots, and wove me a poncho that I never wore because I think it made more of a ‘statement’ than I was willing to make when I was a teenager. But I never forgave her for selling my 1970s Gucci belt or my collection of mint-condition Beatles paraphernalia at a garage sale—and I never let her forget it, either. I do wish I had some of those other things that she did make for me, including that poncho, instead of just being left with a basket of beans to remind me of her.

Because today is Mother’s Day, and just for her, I would slip that poncho over my head and yank on a pair of Frye boots with their heavy stitching, and walk down the street of Paris, not caring what anyone else thought of me. True, I wouldn’t have that Beatle’s wallet that a family friend brought me back, direct from Liverpool.

Nor do I have the vintage Gucci belt with the oversized buckle with the interlocking Gs, similar to the one I recently saw on eBay for over a thousand dollars. Which, I’m pretty sure was mine. But I do have a basket of beans, which no one is going to take away from me.


  • Lovely.

  • absolutely wonderful! looking forward to the recipe. i might even try roasting lima beans! :)

  • Those were the days.

  • I hear you on the laundry – my mother made sure all her children could cook a basic meal and iron a shirt! As we did our daughter, too, and I expect she will her child, in due course.

    I know my daughter came home from school one day after a Home Economics lesson and commented that half the girls in her class didn’t seem to know where the kitchen was in their homes, never mind what it was used for!

    Good luck on getting the sumac; not entirely sure what that is. Are lima beans the same thing as butter beans? I had understood they were more like broad beans.

    Not mothers’ day here, but I hope any American mothers reading this are treated well by their offspring!

  • I’ve never been a fan of lima beans, but the way your mother made them and the way you so lovingly described them is causing all sorts of crazy thoughts and cravings in me. It cracks me up that you’re still torked about your mother selling your Gucci belt and the Beatles memorabilia. I never had anything worth saving when I was a kid, but my mother saved it anyway.

    She recently pulled a bunch of it out of storage and wanted me to take it home and cherish it. It was all a bunch of crap! Hahaha! School papers (that smelled so musty I couldn’t even look at them), broken dolls, plastic lamps, etc. Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t have anything worth saving. I’m not that sentimental about “things”, and maybe not having much to be sentimental about is the reason why.

  • This one one of your more delightful posts. It evoked many memories; including how vexing it was to scrape out the last bit of mashed potatoes or cobbler from the creases in the aluminum TV dinner pan. Let me assure you David, as a mother of two grown, handsome gay men, that your mother did the thing that was most fulfilling to her in life….she loved you.

  • Yum. I think the flavor compliments the beans per-fect-ly.

  • What a wonderful tribute to mom you wrote. I still make the English Muffin pizzas! And I bought Katie a pair of Frye boots which FYI are back in style! I’ll have to ponder how I would make a poncho since I’m nowhere near as creative as she was. Thanks for writing this I love it!!

  • My Mom saved everything & we had to clear out her “full basement” after her death. I have boxes of things I brought home and haven’t touched in five years. But I still have my Beatles (and Dave Clark 5 & Chad and Jeremy) 45’s in their perfect paper sleeves. You can come see them anytime you’re in Kansas.

    BTW – we had limas with corn in succotash & I hated it!

  • Lovely sentiments and memories, David. My mom was a Southern cook and we had meat and potatoes at every meal. Spam for lunch, and I didnt know salads existed until I went to college! Been fighting my weight my whole life but I did enjoy a lot of comfort food in my childhood. Cynthia in the French Alps

  • She sounds fabulous.
    And I always loved lima beans.

  • So beautifully written, tears welled up in my eyes. My father passed away in January. This is mom’s first Mother’s Day without him. Your entry really struck a chord in my heart. Mom’s are special ladies.

  • It sounds like your mom taught you the important things – like how to take care of yourself. I wish she were still around so she could visit you in Paris.

  • Touching post, nostalgic and bittersweet at the same time.

    Not sure what lima beans are, what’s their name in France?

  • david-as usual, you are hysterical. i think my fav part is your mom wearing a tie-dyed skirt and carrying her vuitton bag.

    i’m sorry to hear about the loss of your gucci belt. ;)

    my mother is with me and we are baking baguette this morning and as i’m shaping them i think fondly of your stories of the sharp point and tearing it off.

  • OMG David – outstanding writing! You took all those secret emotions, hidden in the corners of one’s head and gave them words. In so many ways, you are awesome.

  • How sweet you are.

  • Sounds a lot like growing up at our house. Mom worked, cooked a great dinner every night and we had to help not just with the laundry.

  • What a beautiful story! Thanks for sharing! I’m looking forward to the bean recipe because I love love love beans. I eat beans for breakfast topped with pico de gallo and sour cream. It’s delicious!

  • Dear David:

    I really enjoy your blog and read it religiously. Anyway, sumac is an Iranian spice that Iraninas use mostly on their kababs. There are a few Iranian food stores in the 15th arrondissement on rue d’Entrepreneur, off of rue de Commerce.

    If you ever make it there check out the Iranian (Persian) stores. I think you’ll enjoy it.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences in Paris and your lovely recipes.


  • Beautiful and very touching!

  • I feel both your appreciation and your pain. I saw my childhood Beatles lunchbox and thermos for sale in London for $850.00. Ouch.

  • What a beautiful tribute to your mother. I personally think having the beans and the memories of your mother’s meals is way more valuable than a Gucci belt. (I know you probably just gasped!) Their meals and recipes are reminders of the way they’ve loved us over the years by nourishing us. And you’re right: No one can take that away from you:)

  • so sweet…I like hearing about your family!

  • David, I have been following your blog for a while and just read your The Sweet Life in Paris on my Kindle. (I am an American living – and cooking – in La Spezia and Vernazza, Italy so Kindle is the way to go for reading in English.).

    First, I love your writing! I love your sense of humor. Wonderful!

    Second, I was born in 1968 and today’s post brought me back to my childhood: My Italian-American mother only cooked fresh food but we were allowed English muffin pizzas on special occasions and yes, even frozen chicken!, when my parents went out and left us with a babysitter. Since, like you, we never had frozen food, it just tasted like a treat! Thanks for taking me back….

  • Interesting…this morning over mother’s day breakfast my 11-year-old was talking about the lima beans they are growing at school, to which I replied, “That’s cool, but I’ve never liked lima beans.” Then we came home and I read this! So, I’ll take that as an admonition (from you and my son) and maybe after you post your result I will try your recipe. I am game for anything that includes the word “caramelized,” or for that matter, “fried.”

    P.S. Every summer (living in the Rockies it’s really the only season possible) I spend a couple of days tie-dying with my three sons. We line up several big pots with a rainbow of colors, and go crazy with rubber bands and a ton of tees and tanks. They make great gifts too, no two are alike, and my kids love it.

  • Lovely, very touching post.

    p.s. I love sumac

  • I really enjoyed that. Well written. Do the French have any holidays like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day?

  • I too, got sent home for wearing a culotte while in high school and my dear departed Mother had bought it for me.Nice post, thanks.

  • I was shocked when I discovered that a friend’s mom considered spaghetti sauce to be nothing more than Hunt’s tomato sauce straight from the can. That was a bit too short-cutty for me. My mom is a fabulous cook and always made really good meals for us, even when she was going to school or working. I was polite, though, and ate my “spaghetti” without complaining.

  • My mom had a way with frozen limas too. When I was in play in high school, she whipped up an impromptu meal for the cast of her famous meatloaf served with mixed frozen lima beans and frozen spinach (because there wasn’t enough of either). Nothing fancy but in her hands it was magic. I’m convinced that 45 years later, I’m not the only cast member who remembers that meal. I always have frozen lima beans in the freezer.

  • Heartfelt- I’ve got a tear in my eye. My grandmother was the first to cook me english muffin pizzas when she’d watch me on that rare occasion my parents would take a night for themselves. She was the best cook I ever met- Thanks David for this post and thanks Gram for everything you taught me…..

  • That’s a very nice post, David. A fine remembrance of your mother.

  • I had a poncho and Frye boots too. Both gifts from my mom. What a sweet post today. Times have changed and my mother is old now. I am cooking for her today and happy to be able to do it.
    p.s. guess what I got for MD? Yes, chocolate chip cookies tomorrow!

  • I also am not with my mother on Mothers’ Day, and, because I am not in the States, I also realized, by chance, that the holiday was today. And, I also made something (Tex-Mex) in honor of my mom’s good cooking.

    Another note: my family is coming to visit me in a few months, and I’ve specifically requested that they bring a copy of The Sweet Life in Paris from their home library for me to read while they are here. So your book is making a trip halfway around the world!

  • Dear David,

    A wonderful glimpse into your past :)

    I am a mother of two boys and I spend all of my time raising them and making sure they are independent, happy and well fed (not hard to do living in Paris). Yes there are days that I would love to be free to do whatever my heart desires, but my boys give me more happiness than a trip around the world or a year at culinary school (my life’s dream). I am sure your mother felt the same way and it may seem to you that she was unfullfilled, but I assure you that is not the case. Your happiness and succes would be worth any personal sacrifice she made :)

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • Your memories of boyhood “pizza” brought some memories of my own flooding back to me. I was brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness for my sins [and there were MANY according to them] and I was dragged to The Kingdom Hall three times a week. On Sunday evenings we would arrive home starving at about 8 o’clock and have “savoury toast”. This involved a slice of white bread, toasted on one side under the grill [we didn’t own a toaster] spread with a generous dollop of tomato sauce/ketchup, a sprinkling of oregano and then covered with slices of cheddar cheese. Under the grill it would go until it began to bubble. Wa-lah “savoury toast” washed down with a cup of tea – the best part about Sunday evenings.

  • Thanks David for writing about your mother. I lost my mother 11 years ago to cancer (far to young) and think about her almost every week. Like yours, my mother was a very good cook too. She cooked very tasty plain wholesome food. I remember roast beef every Sunday (my Dad’s favourite), tuna casserole, and Christmas pudding to die for.
    She taught me how to cook, do laundry and how to make a good bed.
    I hope I’m a better person for it.


  • What an intimate and evocative post. Thank you.

    P.S. The beans are soaking, and I’m calling my Mom (because it’s just before dinner where she is).

  • A very detailed and touching memory of your mom…
    The legacy they leave us is irreplaceable.
    How cool that your mother went charging off to shear sheep in Vermont and then spin the wool.
    Maybe her Vermont was your ‘Paris’?
    We never had lima beans growing up except in the school lunchroom.
    My dad wouldn’t eat vegetables, so they had to be camouflaged and limas were too…blatantly vegetable..
    My father wouldn’t eat fried foods either, so we never had chips…
    You can find Sumac in any Persian store, if there are Persian stores in Paris, which there must be..
    There are a slew of recipes by Ottolenghi in The Guardian and they look terrific! I will seek out his restaurants in London next month..
    Thanks David for reminding me of my mothers’ idiocycracies and my fathers too!

  • Really nice remembrances of your mother. I have similar memories but I never got a hand woven poncho. I look forward to the recipe with beans.

  • Beautiful, David.

  • Great memories.

    Lima beans – I love the fresh ones! I always remember the garden writer Eleanor Perenyi describing a lima bean as looking like a little purse made of eau de nil silk.

  • beautiful – and a basket of beans, and knowing what to do with them, is a rich legacy indeed. thanks for sharing this lovely memory!

  • I also ate English muffin pizzas as a girl. Is it a jewish thing? I still love them but now I put siracha in the ketchup I us as the tomato sauce. We always used only Heinz ketchup, now I use the organic version and whole wheat english muffins.
    I checked your new book out of the library here in SF and made the chocolate biscotti for a party last night, everyone loved them and I was asked for the recipe. I used whole wheat pastry flour. Can I pass the recipe on to them? I am putting my order into Amazon for my own copy after I post this.

    My dad made my mom sell all my original Barbies with their extensive wardrobes, what a loss! My Beatles and Rolling Stone 45’s are long gone too. Oh well we can’t hold on to all that stuff forever can we???

  • I remember your mother very well, she was also a very favorite aunt–And quite the class act. She taught me a lot about art and gave me good advice. The house you grew up in was a wonder for me and she even gave my mother quite the new hints and ideas for home decor. I always loved what she did–it was really very exciting and her paintings–now that I am taking a course, wish that she could be the one teaching me!! I so remember her wonderful fruit stand painting and the many others as well, but that one always stood out in my memory of her works. She was a gracious hostess and again, a really classy lady—a wonderful woman, teacher, artist and mother!!

  • I was searching for a recipe for Baba Ghanoush and saw yours. Then I read this post and I thought I’d share that I made my favourite dish that my mom makes, just for this day.

    Thanks for sharing :)

  • What a beautiful tribute to your mother!

  • Hooray!
    One of my memories of my mother is her lima beans.
    She’d soak and cook them slowly atop a Franklin Stove.
    Thanks for posting this–I’ve got to get some beans soaking!

  • David, you know as well as anyone that food is love. And you are living your mother’s legacy every time you make a meal or a plate of brownies. She did a great job!

    LOL about the frozen dinners and English muffin pizzas. My mother, who is 82 and still working, always made a dinner from scratch, but we begged for Kraft mac and cheese from a box and Swanson fried chicken. Go figure.

  • I love the way you write as well as the way you tell a story. I am also a huge fan of just, YOU. Thanks for sharing all your stories. I am going to be the big 50 in January and I am taking myself to Paris. Hopefully, I can coordinate it around one of your workshops, tours, lectures, classes, etc. Until then, i will keep reading, savoring your recipes and your stories and continue to be an active member of your fan club!

  • well said. here’s to mothers and the little trucs they leave with us.

  • I never knew that lima beans could be tasty. Bad canned lima beans are one of my memories of my maternal grandmother. That and sherry she was a sweet lady. I love hearing stories from the family vault. Here’s to moms who raised intelligent independent sons

  • I spent mother’s day with my two beautiful daughters and as I watch them grow up almost before my eyes, I wonder what they will remember from their childhood. How will they look back on these days. What they will take with them and what they will leave behind…My biggest hope is that they grow to be creative and independent, happy people who follow their dreams – I have only been reading your blog since passover (amazing recipe for caramelized matzoh crunch by the way) what I’m trying to say is that you seem to posses all of those qualities that I truly believe are the mark of good mothering.

    Your mom may have seemed like she wanted more, but I am willing to bet watching you grow into a creative, independent person who follows his heart was the most rewarding part of her life. Thank you for your blog & sharing your recipes. We made your devil’s food cake friday night and my oldest told me it was the best she ever tasted.

    I just ordered the Perfect Scoop and Ready for Dessert and can’t wait to get them. Thank you.

  • What a lovely post, full of glorious memories. Your mother was clearly a very special woman – thank you for sharing.

  • I love to learn from and about wise mothers, so thank you for sharing this story. My son (although barely 3 years) old, in fact insists on helping in the kitchen. Just this evening I asked if he’d like to watch me cook dinner, to which he responded, “no momma, I want to HELP cook dinner, not watch.”

    Perhaps he too will one day create delicious recipes and write kindly of his mother!

  • Wow! You’ve discovered Ottolenghi. A friend in London introduced me to his first cookbook about a year and a half ago. What a discovery.

    I know that Plenty will be plenty good, but the original book is great. As somebody above mentioned, a lot of Ottolenghi’s recipes are on the UKGuardian site.

  • I have been reading your blog for a few months now, and as with each of your postings by the time I have finished I have laughed and shed a few tears either in laughter or through something you have written that has touched my heart. Your photos are always fabulous. I was fortunate to have lived in Germany for 10 years and was able to travel around Europe including Paris during that time. I am glad that I stumbled upon your blog as it serves to remind me of those days and to take part in your days as you give us the ins & outs of being an American living abroad. Thank you for sharing a glimpse into your childhood & a very touching tribute to your mom. Lori

  • I love lima beans (as I confessed to you once before!) and my Mother used them often by themselves or in many other recipes. My dear Mom was a very good cook but didn’t allow kids in her small kitchen. She told (the four of) us we’d get enough of that when we were adults, so go do your homework! I suspect she used it as a no kid zone, so she’d get some peace before my Father got home. She was a Joy of Cooking, cook. We had a lot of stuff that other kids that I knew didn’t have for dinner. I was actually kind of embarrassed about it as a kid; I wanted a Betty Crocker Mom! Now, I’m proud she wasn’t like the others parents. Dont’ get me wrong, Betty’s great, has a lot of good sound recipes, but Irma Rombauer was more adventurous, so we ate a lot of things that weren’t in Betty’s book and that my friends thought were weird. Though I loved most everything she fixed, I just didn’t want to be known to like “the weird stuff” back lima beans!

  • David, I am a gigantic fan of yours. I follow your blog, have your books, try your
    recipes and think you are, well… a celebrity!! you simply rock! Most of all I adore
    the way you write. Todays post was a perfect example of your talent.
    Happy Mothers Day to your dear mother!

  • oakjoan: I’ve been a fan of Ottolenghi for a while, ever since I wrote about their amazing recipe for Chocolate-Dipped Florentines. Am looking forward to delving deeper into the latest book.

    Susan: I remember my best friend from childhood moved to New Jersey and I went to visit and his mom made the best thing I ever tasted (at the time): Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. I can’t say I make it these days, or crave it anymore. I think I came home and begged my mother to make it. She refused, although we she did make the baked chicken with Special K coating that I had there, which was pretty good too.

    Melanie: Great story! : )

    parisbreakfast & homa: I do love the Persian markets in the 15th, and got the barberries I used in my mincemeat recipe there. I’ll include more information in the post when I finish the recipe. And I had wonderful Persian ice cream over there, too.

  • the image of your mother with her boots, tie-dye skirt and vuitton bag, shearing sheep and spinning the wool, it made my day. She seemed to be an incredible person and the way you talk about her is very cheerful. Thanks for sharing such nice memories with us !

  • My mom passed away 2 years ago and my dad passed away last year. I love this post you wrote in honor of your mother. It brought tears to my eyes because I miss my mom’s wonderful cooking, too!

    I aspire to be as great a cook, woman and inspiration as she was.

    Thank you for your blog. :)

  • Fine post! My brother was “mesmerized” by TV dinners too so my mom used to reuse the plates with her own roast beef, mashed potatoes and some frozen peas and he would eat it on his little TV table in front of the TV. He’s 67 now and I think he still doesn’t know the truth!

  • I would like to think that my son will remember me as a great cook, too, David. Perhaps the fact that he bought me your newest book for Mother’s Day is evidence that he will. Together, he and I made steak sandwiches for lunch yesterday from the Pioneer Woman’s cookbook that he got me for Christmas. Nothing better than a family that cooks together and then enjoys the product of their efforts.

    Thank you for contributing to that for me.

  • Growing up, my parents owned a restaurant in Northern Ontario. People came from far and wide to have my mothers pizza, yet I don’t remember ever eating it. I do remember how jealous I was of my friend, who’s mom made pizza on english muffins.

  • sweeet! :) my mom was the same kind of cook – nothing too fancy, but always super delicious. and i know for sure that it was in her kitchen (our kitchen) where i developed my love for cooking and food. oh, and those tv dinners you speak of – talk about getting excited over something ridiculously bad for you…the only time we EVER got to eat sugar cereal or boxed anything was when my grandparents came to visit. they’d always bring a trunk-load of groceries with them, most of which my mother would shoot the stink eye. oh, but the rice crispie treat cereal and lucky charms. yummy!

  • About the TV dinners…my husband and I have 2 different perspectives on them. To me, they were such a treat, eaten only on the rare occasion when my parents would go out. Loved the compartmentalized foods and the dessert was the best. My husband, on the other hand, hated them, as his mother, who worked, served them more often as a way to get a quick and easy dinner on the table. My mother was not a fancy cook, but we practically never ate out and she made dinner every night. NOT an easy feat! Now that I am mother of 2, I know that (we eat out alot and have cereal for dinner alot!). My favorite way to eat spaghetti to this day is the way she made it. Boil the spaghetti, brown some ground beef, open a jar of Ragu brand spaghetti sauce and mix it all together in the pot. So good! Oh, and Shake & Bake pork chops were a favorite, too. Hey, it was the 70’s, what can I say…ha ha. Loved this post. That would make a good cookbook — childhood favorite meal memories. I am new to your bog and am enjoying it very much.

  • We are from the same era. Those tv dinners were few and far between and a “special” occasion when the parents went out. I’m delighted you took the time to post this memory about your mom. It surely made me think of my own in a different light than what I see her now. I see her eat nursing home versions of tv dinners and take her “fresh” food I make as often as I can. Thank you for sharing your feelings with us. All of your readers love you!!

  • I remember those turkey with dressing TV dinners. I especially loved the peas and still love frozen peas to this day. My mother was a horrible cook frying bologne was one of our meals, but she has improved over the years. She never saved anything of mine or anybody else’s so no junk is left. I’m lucky to still have her with me.

  • What a sweet post. I hope my daughter remembers me as fondly as you remember your mother. I try to share my love of cooking with her. So far she tells me that she loves my cooking, of course she is only 5. I hope as she gets older she tries to recreate her favorite foods growing up.

  • Your post has opened up the floodgates of memory. My Mom was a wonderful and adventurous cook. She didn’t like to take any chances in her life, except in the kitchen. I think she longed to travel more than finances would permit so she traveled by spoon, knife, and fork… Crepes Suzette for breakfast in the winter. Nothing like going to school with Grand Marnier on your breath — in Junior High!

    I love Lima beans — in any form — a love I’m sure I acquired from my mother. Mom used Limas often in her cooking. She made a wonderful dried Lima soup. I still make it on cold Saturdays. Can’t wait to try your next promised Lima post. And, next time I roast a hunk of beef, I’m going to throw in a few boxes of Lima beans. What a great idea — sounds like something my mom would have done too!

    Lovely post! (I had a Peter Pan lunchbox — it disappeared — bummer.)

  • what an amazing post. i’m sure that, poncho or no poncho, your mom would be proud of you. i think of all the things from my childhood/adolescence that I got rid of too, and while you wish them back, you still have the memories, and beans, in your case :).

    thanks for being so inspiring, and a joy to read!

  • Thank YOU for the wonderful cookies that our daughter made for me for Mother’s Day. Using the recipe for the “trash can” cookies as a basis, she made a batch with candied ginger, chopped Rollos, BUGLES, coconut, dark chocolate, and sesame candy. That’s all that I could figure out. I think candied/chocolate covered orange peel would make a good addition too. Anyway, daughter has become known for her “cookies” which change of course each time she makes another batch. Having something salty to balance out the sweet she discovered is critical. Thanks again. My mother, like yours, worked and cooked great meals also. We all miss her daily. Her piece de resistance was chicken fricasee, which I have never been able to duplicate.

  • Wow, the description of the lima beans your mother made is wonderful. I’m going to have to try that the next time I do a beef roast. Very nice tribute to your mother; she’d be proud to appear on your very popular blog.

  • Jeez, David!

    You’ve always made me drool, but this time I drooled and cried :-O

    Not a pretty sight, but the tugs on my heart strings and taste memories are just too strong to ignore – gotta cook some lima/butter beans in Beef fat soon!

    Love and hugs, with respect.

  • Very touching David. It’s funny what we hold dear about our mothers. And Lima Beans, especially frozen baby lima beans. My mom would boil them, drain the water, put tons of of butter and parsley. And today, I still love them that way.

    Thanks for the wonderful and sweet tribute to your mother.

  • Toaster Oven English Muffin Pizza was a prized treat when I was a kid. We still enjoy them using the same recipe as Dave. I am older than Dave and yes, I have a stone oven and make pizza from scratch, but there is nothing like quick and easy Toaster Oven Pizza on English Muffins to bring back childhood memories. We taught both of our children to make them and are teaching grandchildren now.

  • BOY, this does bring back memories. Our moms were amazing — women that worked but still had to fulfill the ’50s notion of a wife and mother who also had to have dinner on the table every night and the house and kids spotless. But they grew up during the Depression, so were very practical, or at least my mom was. She taught us how to cook, clean, do laundry, and be as self-sufficient as possible. She even taught me how to do her hair and to sew (but that’s not why I’m gay). I loved my mom’s string beans cooked in bacon fat. And MY favorite TV dinner was Swanson’s salisbury steak. That, a can of Campbells condensed navy bean soup, and Howdy Doody or Mickey Mouse Club on TV, and my brother and I were happy, happy kids. My mom is now 91, and we took her to a little French brasserie in Culver City for mimosas and oeufs cocottes (well, she had the housemade merguez/harissa sausage sandwich, because SHE can still eat super spicy without taking Zantac). She is still a treasure.

  • My mother used to cook simple food, but the only frozen stuff we ever had was broccoli or other vegetables. We had a garden every summer and would spend a couple of weeks canning every fall, so we had garden veggies all winter long. Back then, we didn’t have much money and it was cheaper to cook from scratch than to buy frozen food.

    Mom also made sure that I and my two brothers could cook and do our own laundry. I always maintained it was so she wouldn’t have to get up and make us breakfast before school in the mornings :-) I also remember watching the guys in the laundry room in college as they tried to figure out the washing machines and dryers. There was usually a plethora of pink underwear at the beginning of the semester.

    Some male friends I shared a house with had mothers who didn’t let them in the kitchen, so it was always interesting to watch them try to cook. One of them once baked a chicken for 4 hours because he figured it was half the time his mother would cook a turkey, so it would work for a chicken. They were smart guys, but had no common sense or practical basis for experience when it came to cooking.

    My brother ended up being the favorite cook in his fraternity house because none of the other guys knew which end of a stove was up. To this day, both my brothers and I love to cook, so Mom’s lessons stuck.

  • What a sweet post…I like hearing about your family!

  • Conniption is a word I’ve only heard my mother use, until now. Thanks for making me smile once again!
    I, too, loved English muffin pizzas. Hmm, I wish I had some right now.

  • My mother also worked and came home to cook us a home cooked dinner – without all the modern kitchen appliances that are available today. She taught us to cook and do laundry at an early age so we could help her out.

    It was my father who loved lima beans. He would have us shell those beans so he can make his famous recipe – pasta with lima beans!

    Thanks for writing such a lovely post – it brought back wondeful memories.

  • You just make me smile.

  • Seriously lovely. I love lima beans, too, btw.

  • The turkey TV dinner sure brings back memories! That was some of the first “cooking” I did–carefully watching the timer for when to peel back the foil over the cobbler was very important!

  • English Muffin pizzas were a Friday night favorite in our house! I still make them occasionally, they’re really good. My Mom used to make lima beans baked with pork chops and molasses. Never got TV dinners unless my parents went out to dinner. I liked the On-Cor turkey, for sandwiches. Sounds like they read the same cookbook, or magazines.
    Like your mother, my mom passed away before she had the chance to do something other than cook dinner every night and raise children, so sad to think they never had the chance to explore like we have.

  • Sweet post.

  • Mmmm. Turkey TV dinners, pre-microwave oven. My folks got Banquet brand ones for 33 cents each, or maybe four for a dollar on sale. Two light/dark tan/gray 3/32″ thin slices of turkey, a slap of passable white bread stuffing underneath, gray-vy to be distributed. A dab of corn in one corner, a puddled extrusion of grainy translucent whipped potatoes with an off-center spot bearing a promise of yellow flavor, opposite. We might have had a de-luxe 89-cent brand with cobbler in an extra compartment at some time but they were more trouble anyway. Those dinners were awfully skimpy and you had to wait 30 minutes, box to lap. I also adored the cheese enchilada one with the watery rice. Sitting cross-legged on the floor with homework and late-afternoon TV, I used my tongue in the wrinkles around the edge, working pretty hard at it if I had burnt the sauce on. I believe myself to have eaten more than hundreds but maybe less than a thousand.
    My parents were solid, value-conscious, good plain cooks, knowledgeable about food, readers of Gourmet but not snobs, and I’d never even heard of Kraft macaroni and cheese until a boyfriend made it for me in college. That was 1970. Double cheese packets with butter or (ech!) margarine only, no milk. I think this was a meal he made for himself while his widowed mom was at work. Heaven! I’ve passed the technique on to my own fatherless children.

  • This post has touched my heart strings. I can feel your sincerity and love in this post. As a daughter, i’ve realized that i have been very selfish when my parents have made so many sacrifices to raise my siblings and I. Despite giving us so much, I have always wanted more. I don’t like doing the laundry. Meals are prepared by my parents and I don’t like doing the washing up after meals either. After reading this post, I’ve realized that with every chore that my parents make me do, they make me more independent because they love me. Thank you David.

  • Reading this made me smile — a little sentimental too. My mom is an incredible cook, besides all the other amazing artsy skills of hers. I know there was so much she wanted to try, but she’s devoted most of her time to raising the family. Me stepping into the kitchen and recently cooking most of the family dinners on weekends, in a way, feels like stealing the thunder from her — she was always the one who cooked amazing meals and was praised for them. Yet, she’s been telling me how happy and proud she is, never letting me do the dishes after dinner. I started cooking a bit early for this year’s Mother’s Day (Parents’ Day in Korea) and did all the dishes before she had the chance to force me out of the kitchen.

    Happy belated Mother’s day!

  • Great Post. I can’t wait to try this bean recipe. And your mum sounds so cool! I love the little anecdote about your mum making ‘pizza’ with muffins. I use what may the the modern equivalent, wraps/tortillas, and my kids love them. That may not satisfy the food fascists, but it does mean I have dinner on the table in 10 minutes, and sometimes thats all the time I have!

  • Rowdy Chowgirl: Yes, ‘peeling back the foil on the cobbler’ was perhaps the first ‘cooking experience’ for a lot of us.

    Also I credit measuring the Good Seasons salad dressing in the bottle for my interest in ‘baking’!

  • This post rocks on so many levels, from all it said about toaster oven pizzas to that glorious-sounding poncho — but most of all, from the way you wrote about her, I wish I could have known your mom. She sounds cool. :)

    I’m looking forward to knowing more about how to roast and/or fry lima beans. I am one of the crowd that has hated them, but I think that is because my mom just microwaved them — actually, the frozen mixed veggies with limas in them, and that is no way to eat *any* veggie I have learned. I learned to love roasted brussels sprouts and if the same applies to limas, I am totally game.

  • That loud cracking sound is my heart. I love limas too, although I have no lima stories. Now it is fave and for their short season I am all over that. But okay if you like frozen fried chicken and English muffin pizzawannabes. We all have our flaws (and I even have a poncho– want it?) We are the elder generation now… shocking but true. So we are privileged to misinterpret the world in and out of the kitchen for the next ones coming up.

  • heartfelt, David. it reminded me of the ‘special things’ my mom made, creamed peas on toast (during lent), homemade vegetable soup and strawberry shortcake. I was a picky eater and if i didn’t like what we had for dinner, i would make myself cocoa and toast. now i will eat practically anything, and, 30 years later, i wish my mom were still here so i could share a meal with her.

  • What a lovely post. I feel the same way about rhubarb and my mom.

  • A lovely post and a reminder that we need to hold on to those early memories of our home life with mom. My mother often laments that childhood food memories are lackluster. She grew up with several siblings in a home with few resources and they lived on canned beans. She won’t eat beans now and I didn’t get to experience them until I left the house for college. We now live on beans, but by choice. Thanks to a pressure cooker and a few simple seasoning techniques, we feel not only nourished by the beans we eat at home but treated to something wonderful that too few people understand. Cheers to you and to memories of moms everywhere!

    Steve & Jason

  • I’m in love with the idea of fat-crisped beans, and also the endearing portrait of your mom. (And for the record? MY mom was in town for mother’s day, and stayed up late three nights running to finish Sweet Life.)

  • I love this post David. I lost my mother more than ten years ago, too, and I regret that I wasn’t able to cook for her when she was still alive. I remember everything she cooked for us, and all the chores she made us siblings do around the house, so that I am capable of running my own house now that I have my own family.