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!

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Quyen - Kitchen Runway May 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Such a beautiful and thoughtful post! Loved that your mom cooked up a mean “friendship”! Happy Mother’s Day to you! Glad we got to talk & catch up at camp last week!

2 Cathy/ShowFoodChef May 7, 2011 at 2:52 pm

Melissa, this was so beautiful and inspiring. I needed the reminder to value my time and efforts with family and friends. A very loving tribute and it was a pleasure to at least chat with you at CampBlogAway. Look forward to more.

3 Melissa Lanz May 7, 2011 at 3:39 pm

Thanks ladies. How about a link to your loving family recipe?

4 Fuji Mama May 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

Such a tender beautiful post Melissa! Thank goodness for all sorts of mothers. Your mom sounds like she was an extraordinary woman. No wonder you are who you are. For me, when I want to share love, I make either toffee or homemade bread. Not only do both of them cause people to light up when they receive them, but they both make my house smell amazing. There’s something about the smell of butter and sugar and the smell of baking bread that smells like love.

Bread: (I love this recipe because it’s very non-stressful, and easily customizable. I use part whole wheat flour, or other flours, add in herbs and seeds, etc.!)

Happy Mother’s Day my friend. I love you!

5 Melissa Lanz May 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Thank you. I am SO making toffee. I’ll bring some next weekend if successful. Be well and hug those girls.

6 Patricia Nilsson May 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm

Melissa – what a beautiful tribute to your mom. Here’s a link I could find to the Joy of Cooking sour cream coffee cake. Mark makes it for me on special Sunday mornings…like Mother’s Day! His aunts and mom had given him that cookbook when he was in college, and they had all written notes and memories throughout the book. They are all gone now, and needless to say it is a family treasure.

Sour cream coffee cake:

7 Melissa Lanz May 7, 2011 at 5:46 pm

Patricia- What an amazing family book! I’m adding my notes to the New York Times Cookbook in hopes that one day my boys will cherish the gift. A mom can dream…

8 Lana May 7, 2011 at 6:06 pm

This was one beautifully written post, Melissa! It brought tears to my eyes, and I could feel how much you love and miss your mother. I remind myself every day not to take my mom’s love and life for granted, and it hurts me so much to have her so far away, now that she is older and needs me to hold her hand and be with her.
My blog is in a way a tribute to her, because she taught me so much. I want my girls to know her from my point of view, as a younger, energetic, and vivacious woman who always knew how to light up a party and offer a comforting word.
Have a great Mother’s Day! And thank you for sharing Eileen with us:)

Here are two of my post that talk about family love and recipes that bring it forward:

9 Kristina Vanni May 7, 2011 at 7:46 pm

What a fantastic tribute to your mom! I am sure she is so proud of you, your family and all your accomplishments. It was so great carpooling with you to camp, chatting all along the way and now getting to know even more about you through your writing. I’ll bike on over to your place soon and say ‘hi.’ I owe you lunch…or drinks….or both! :)

10 diane May 8, 2011 at 8:17 am

Your Mom nourished you with love and friendship. What an amazing woman she was and bravo to her for gifting you to us all.
thank you for this beautiful memory. xo

11 Melissa Lanz May 8, 2011 at 8:24 am

Lana- I love the idea of bringing family love forward with recipes. Thank you for sharing yours with me.

12 Melissa Lanz May 8, 2011 at 8:26 am

Diane – so happy to be part of community that nourishes each other in food and spirit.

13 Irvin from Eat the Love May 8, 2011 at 12:33 pm

What a love tribute to your mom. My mom was a cook, always getting hot homemade food on the table for us every day for every dinner. We were a kitchen meal sort of family, but she never really taught me to cook, and she didn’t bake at all. I sometimes wonder where I got my drive and desire to bake, but then I look back at my mom, who just wanted us together for dinner every night and I realized that my love of baking correlates to wanting all my friends and loved ones to gather and enjoy food together, in whatever setting.

My friends always influence what I make. They request things and they ask me to make things. Probably the one thing that I get requested the most is my Mediterranean Citrus Olive Oil cake. I adapted it to be gluten free for a friend of mine who is allergic to wheat but now I have friends from all walks of life (most of whom, who CAN eat wheat) ask me to make it. And because it was one of my first gluten free recipes, it also started a number of friendships I have via my blog with the gluten free/celiac community.

14 Melissa Lanz May 8, 2011 at 6:13 pm

Irvin, it sounds divine. I will add it into my family Saturday brunch. I hope we can break bread together next time you are in LA.

15 Rashmi from May 9, 2011 at 5:53 am

awwww… thanks for sharing. Two different types of moms (yours and mine..) but look at us — we love the kitchen and how it nourishes our families. I love how we both go back to the kitchen to connect with our moms. A beautiful read… and I feel like I got to know you so much better through this post.

16 Louise May 10, 2011 at 6:45 am

this made my heart happy this morning… sitting here in my little kitchen drinking my coffee. i am so happy to have met you melissa and now call “you” friend. im excited to read more of your posts and am thrilled you made it happen. here is a post of mine i wrote some time back about my best friend growing up and the influence her family had on my life…
happy tuesday. OH and a salad I know you will love, citrus – avocado – HONEY

17 mmdurango May 10, 2011 at 9:23 am

Ah Melissa, your Mom, Eileen, was indeed a force of nature, such a strong, straightforward, funny woman. I’m glad I was able to meet her a few times and see all the things you talk about. You capture her spirit beautifully and thank you for sharing her and you with us all. My mom was a bit like yours, a regular rotation for dinners, many the same. But her visionary tacos of the 1950′s in the San Fernando Valley were legendary.

Fry ground beef and shredded potatoes with salt and pepper. In a second frying pan heat oil until pretty hot, add a tortilla and fry til softened, add the ground beef/potato mixture on one side and fold over the other on top. Fry on each side until crisp. Drain and serve with grated cheese, diced tomatoes, shredded lettuce and chopped onions. For us silly kids, there was catsup to shake on.


18 Melissa Lanz May 10, 2011 at 1:41 pm

@Louise – the feeling is mutual. salad looks delish! thank you.
@Marion – sometimes, there’s nothing better than tacos with a friend. soon?

19 Aunt Judy June 27, 2011 at 9:30 pm

Okay, here I am, a couple of months late, but I just read your blog and comments. Your post is a beautiful tribute to “Auntie” and brings back many wonderful memories of family gatherings. And yes, family always meant lots of friends……

As you know, I am just now getting comfortable around the kitchen now that I retired….and yet, my favorite thing to prepare, especially for Rachel, is one of the special things my Mom did for me over 55 years ago — hot cereal (has to be made with milk – can’t be Cream of Wheat), with a happy face made out of raisins. I have found that the “special” dish that brings warmth and smiles doesn’t have to be fancy, it doesn’t have to be complex, as long as it is made with love. I make it and I still think about my Mom and smile; Rachel still asks me to make it for her when she is home from school. Nothing like sharing love, in various ways. To anyone wondering, “Is that all she can cook?”, nah, I can cook other stuff, but the love with the raisin happy face is amazing!!

Keep making memories……..lots of love,

Auntie Judy

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