In Mother's Kitchen
Women Chefs Share Beloved Family Recipes
Ann Cooper and Lisa Holmes
(Rizzoli, April 2005)
we are far from home we often long for our mothers’
kitchens. Everything smells delicious there and the company
is always good. We agree with Lisa Holmes and Ann Cooper
when they say that “the kitchen is the heart of the
home.” And so we share their concern over the statistic
that only 15 percent of American children sit down to a
family meal on a regular basis. It was this fact that sparked
the concept for their second collaboration In
chefs we feared the loss of our nation’s great culinary
heritage, and as women with deep family and cultural ties
we couldn’t imagine a world in which the kitchen would
no longer be the heart of the home,” the authors said.
an impressive list of contributing chefs like Traci
des Jardins, Lidia
Martinez and Sherry
Yard, the authors have attempted to create a cookbook
that preserves this heritage and can be passed down to future
generations, just as a mother's treasured recipes would
each contributor there is a short biography, a piece written
by the chef herself, and one or two family photos. The personal
memories that these women share, along with the often candid
snapshots, give the book an intimate feel, and it is a pleasure
to read their stories. Though we love the concept of the
book, we can’t understand its organization. We found
the division into chapters such as "Mothers and Grandmothers,"
"Daughters" and "Families" unnecessary
and confusing; the relationship at the heart of each recipe
is already explained in that recipe’s introduction.
The chapter entitled “Indulgences: Special extravagances
to sweeten our days” is obviously dedicated to desserts,
but most of the other chapters also contain dessert recipes.
Cakes, cookies and pies are not included under "Desserts"
in the index and have to be looked up separately. We would
have appreciated an index by course for easy reference.
of the recipes are relatively simple and for the most part
require ingredients that can be found in any grocery store.
They are, as the introduction states, "based on flavor
and a realness, or an earthiness, that cannot be found among
the plates of show food found at so many restaurants."
Unfortunately, this simplicity can be deceptive. Gale Gand,
the executive pastry chef and partner in Chicago’s
has included her mother Myrna’s recipe for short ribs,
a stew with a base of beef stock and tomatoes. The recipe
calls for eight small onions, but doesn’t tell us
if we should blanch them to remove the skins and, if so,
how to do it.
aren’t instructions on how the six medium carrots
should be cut, if the potatoes should be peeled, if the
excess flour that the ribs are rolled in should be shaken
off or how hot the oil should be when the ribs are added
for browning. At the end of the suggested two and a half
hours the short ribs weren’t near ready. It was absolutely
necessary for the fat to be skimmed off the top of the stew
(though a provision for this step isn’t made in the
recipe) and an additional two hours were needed to let the
made these decisions ourselves, but fear a beginner could
easily become lost. The ribs were good that night, but were
literally lip smacking when we sat down to eat them the
next evening. Too bad the book makes no mention of how good
the stew is when it is reheated.
As with most of the recipes in this book the simple ingredients
and rich flavors brought us right back to mother’s
kitchen. But we were lucky in that our mothers had the time
and ability to cook and the patience to teach us. Reading
the personal histories of professional women cooks and making
their recipes does help us to better connect to our culinary
heritage. But this book isn’t for the novice cook.
It would have been nice if it could have served as a sort
of substitute for mom, guiding us with thorough and careful
instruction and helping us learn not just how to follow
a recipe, but how to cook.
Reviewed by Maya Levy