Friendship: a family recipe

by Melissa Lanz

Over the years, I have held no secret that my mother was not talented in the kitchen.  Her warmth was generated in other ways.
She was the mother of necessity when it came to getting dinner on the table.  The recipe repertoire was limited to five repetitive meals: chicken and dumplings, spaghetti (the Midwest kind with green peppers and tomatoes), tuna melts, Hungarian goulash and lasagna.  Dad rounded out the meals with anything grilled, peach cobbler and a steady flow of ice cream.  The family kitchen was not a gathering place. We were a living room family.  My family food culture today is quite the opposite of previous childhood experiences.  We are always in the kitchen.  Friends and family aren’t as familiar with the other rooms of my house as they are the little kitchen where I entertain life. Every good part of me can be traced back to the kitchen.

So I am wondering, how did I get here?

My mom has been gone over five years and as Mother’s Day comes into view, I am reflective to say the least.  For me, there is no divide between the warmth of my family kitchen and my mother’s tender smile.  She never taught me how to braise or bake.  She didn’t leave me with a tattered cookbook of kitchen memories. She did, however, endow me with all the ingredients for a full, happy life.  She taught me that friendship is the only thing.  Loyalty and generosity were the tips and tricks that she left behind. Sometimes, the only place that makes me feel closer to her is the kitchen, which is odd because she was never much at the stove.

I’m feeling a little sad. I miss my mom. I’m sure I’ll head to the kitchen to create some warmth that I can share with family and friends.  On a day where most mothers just want a break, I’m feeling the urge to feed my family. In the end, I guess she did leave me a kitchen legacy.

If life were a cookbook, my mom made a mean friendship.

And because sometimes you need to ask for what you need, if you can spare some kitchen love, please leave a link in the comments to your best friendship recipe. I’m in the mood to feel loved.

Happy Mother’s Day.

In honor of mom…

Eileen Baker VanDerWende was born November 29th, 1945. She wouldn’t want to bore you with additional details, dates and events. She would want you to know that she lived and loved. And if you wanted to know who she was, to look around the room. She was a people person. Eileen never got too caught up in career or social standing. Her life’s work sits here today, filling this space. Her friends are her most valued accomplishments. Her family is her lifetime achievement award.  She would want you to know that her life can be measured in the smile of our little ones and the closeness of her community.

I think of her now, sitting on her bed at command central.  I can hear CNN in the background and envision her ear to the phone listening, delegating, and advising. She kept track of everyone’s lifelike a general with some master chart; moving pieces around as she received reports from the field.  She was enthusiastic about the goings on of all of us. To Eileen, we all mattered. And she would leave no soldier behind. You could always count on her.

Eileen would want you to know how satisfied she was with this whole business of life. Her regrets were few. When there were two roads to follow, she always chose the path leading to loved ones. The laundry, errands or work could wait. Her priority was always people and for that her life was good.

Before she died, my mom told me not to be saddened by her passing. She was ready. Her battle with Scleroderma was coming to an end and command central was relocating to a higher post. She told me some people lived longer but she doubted they lived better.

My mom would want you to remember her through the lives and spirits that live on here today.  In Uncle David’s kindness, Alan’s patience, Marlene’s romantic side and Doug’s laughter. She would want you to see her in Aiden’s eyes, Bailey’s intelligence, Kristen’s strength, Bill’s warmth and Trent’s loyalty. She would ask that you watch your grammar and savor holidays with family. She would encourage you to take time out and do the Sunday crossword puzzle and if you didn’t know the answers to call someone who did cause it’s always a good idea to call a friend.

I know  that she is watching over us but I’d like to imagine her soaring over the earth, roaming free, eyes peeled like an eagle ready  to swoop down and protect any of us in need.

And in the end she would hope that you had lived and loved as much as she did.

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY from my heart to your table!





Kids DIY Breakfast: Avocado Hero

by Melissa Lanz

Breakfast Avocado and HoneyBreakfast is somewhat of an unwieldy event occurring in my house on a daily basis. My family likes to sleep in but the school board seems adverse to tardiness.

I have my tricks for a quick breakfast fix but nothing is more pleasing than do it yourself breakfast made by the kids.  Eliott is 5 and after a satisfying winter kiwi fix, he has found a new morning DIY called avocado hero.  For those of you that do not speak Eliott, it is an avocado drizzled with raw honey.

While I am more than happy to lift the morning grog with a couple of scrambled eggs and wheat toast for the school age set, it gives me great pleasure when the kids discover healthy dishes they can prepare on their own.

Kids love independence. Avocados are a perfect fit for independent kids. Avocado skin can be easily cut with a plastic, kid-friendly knife, flesh scooped out with a spoon and it requires no dish.

Avocado contains no sugar, so a healthy drizzle of honey is a great companion. Add a piece of whole wheat toast and a glass of organic milk and breakfast is served and you might still be in bed.

I have mixed feelings about my little man handling breakfast on his own.  It signals that the toddler years are behind me and I must no longer pinch ruby cheeks in public.  I also have a tremendous sense of pride that my family food culture has developed a sense of confidence for my kids in the kitchen.

A note about avocados:

Avocados are big in our southern California household. The first seasonal crop started showing up at the market in February.  My recent purchases have not yielded quality avocados.  Unidentified fruit imported from Mexico or Chili has proven inedible.  Black spots and traces of mold were found in almost all of my pre-season avocados.

I’m the first one to promote quality ingredients, but my love of avocados made me jump the gun.  I am reminded of the necessity of finding quality producers you can trust whether it is at your local grocery store chain or your weekend farmers market.  Knowing where your food comes from is always the best way to produce great results in the kitchen. Read the stickers and pay attention to what is consistent in quality.  I will not be buying any more nameless, faceless avocado this season. I’m headed straight for California Avocados because they rarely disappoint in texture or flavor.

A medium avocado is about 150 calories and although I am amazed that a five year old can eat a whole fruit and ask for more, I am sure there are worse things that could happen to his morning than avocado overload.  The most nutrients are closest to the skin so don’t leave any avocado behind.

Also, I love a well executed website about food. The California Avocado Commission has produced a top notch site with copious amounts of avocado information. They could name themselves Avocados ‘R’ US. It’s worth checking out if you are into that sort of thing. Yes, I am a food geek.


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