If there was a hostess that I aspired to be, it would be my mom. I lost her when I was only 13 years old, but during the time I had her around, I picked up so many of her amazing habits -- welcoming people into our home, feeding loved-ones and balancing all the swirling plates that make up a full life.
One of my earliest memories of my mom is back when I was a wee 5 year old. She owned a catering company at the time. Nothing big, mainly parties for friends, family and a lot of events for my grandmother. (Don't remind my dad about that time. He has horror stories about peeling 100's of lbs of prawns....). I used to "serve" at my grandma's events. I had a tiny-person-sized apron that she would tie around my waist and I would walk through the crowd passing appetizers. All of my grandma's friends "Ooh'd" and "Aah'd" at me as I offered them canapés complete with my fan of cocktail napkins. I loved serving others. I also loved how much they appreciated and enjoyed my mom's cooking. Any kind words directed towards my mom after seeing how hard my parents worked made me the proudest daughter.
When I was about 7, my mom stopped running her catering company, but that didn't mean she stopped entertaining. It was common to have dinner parties on the weekends or just full-days of cooking as a family. In the summer we canned salsas, jams, chutneys or spent all day with a pot of something boiling away for dinner. In the winter, it was weeks of holiday cookies to be packaged up and sent out to loved ones.
Mornings were slow when I was growing up. I would come downstairs and my mom was already sitting in her recliner with the foot rest up and cookbooks, food magazines and torn out recipes strewn all over amongst her feet. She would compare two recipes, marking them up and seamlessly combining two recipes into one without ever having tasted anything. She had this amazing ability to know what something was going to taste like -- too much cinnamon, not enough salt, the veggies should sauté 5 minutes less.
Although I was always in the kitchen helping however I could. I will never forget the first time I made a recipe all by myself. Chocolate chip cookies. Nothing too extravagant. My mom left me after we read through the recipe (I was only 8, so some assistance was appreciated). It took me FOREVER. Two hours of measuring ever element exactly, scraping the side of the bowl each time, and worrying that the dough balls were different sizes and wouldn't cook correctly. My mom was patiently waiting in the living room reading through recipes leaving me to my ways. After exhausting all my mental effort and being incredibly patient while the cookies cooled, I took a bite and I had mixed up the sugar and salt measurements (Let's remember I was 8.) I cried. Ok, I bawled and my mom dumped it all down the drain and said it was never too late to start again. We fluttered about the kitchen together for about 20 minutes, popped the second batch into the oven and spent the rest of the day munching on "my" delicious cookies.
Although I was a bit discouraged, that didn't stop me. I quickly moved from cookies to cheesecakes, focaccia bread and soft pretzels. Baking was definitely my beginning, now that I am thinking about it. I was much too impatient to stand over the stove and barely ever helped in the kitchen unless it was a large cooking event -- spending a day canning jam, a Sunday spent rolling meatballs in massive quantities for the freezer or pumping out those Christmas cookies. My lack of interest in cooking full meals was notable in high school, but we will save that for another time.
On some level, I have realized this blog is a tribute to Tami. Are there other reasons I started it? Of course! At the heart of all this entertaining are her examples, and I look forward to passing on some of my own one day.
P.S. Can we note the photo of 7 year-old me being a boss with the wok. What 7-year-old is doing this?! Who am I?