WV Culinary Team: Cooking with Mom offers lessons in cooking and life | life & art – Advice Eating

When you think of mom, you often think of cups of sugar and flour rather than expensive perfume bottles or fancy flowers. Mom’s Best Recipes provide the convenience you can taste before you even take a bite.

But cooking with mom can mean very different things, especially in the 21st century. After all, motherhood is a place where tradition and modernity often clash.

Frank Litton learned specific tips and tricks from his mother growing up, but others, like Megan Simpson’s family, learn these valuable tips through Zoom. Gordon and Eleanor Chin study alongside their mother while she retires from Chin’s restaurant and cooks at home for the first time in over 45 years.

The Graham Cracker Pie tradition

“It’s listed in the cookbook as a custard pie, but Mom always called it a graham cracker pie,” Frank Litton tells me as he slices a generous helping of the billowing confection. It melts in my mouth: a perfect combination of creamy custard mixed with the buttery crunch of graham cracker crumbs and tender meringue.

Frank grew up five blocks from his elementary and middle school, where he would bike home every day to work with his mother, Doris Litton, a superb cook who could cook anything from traditional country food to soup and nuts to have lunch formal affair. Mother and son enjoyed a ritual of watching The Galloping Gourmet with Graham Kerr together while having lunch. Frank’s mother shared tips and tricks from the program that made the recipes work.

“That was the beginning of my passion for food and cooking,” said Litton.

It wasn’t until he was a law student that Frank began using the lessons he had learned from Doris on the side. He called her frequently for advice on cooking.

“Your best cooking tip? Taste as you go. Because you know you can follow a recipe exactly. But for a variety of reasons, it’s important to know what’s going on when you’re cooking,” he said.

Another tip from Doris? Have all the ingredients ready, advice he still follows to this day: “Especially with this recipe, it’s important because in order for the meringue to be dense and not soggy, you have to whip it up when the cream is hot, so you have to have everything ready.”

Doris had a few secret ingredients and tips that made her graham cracker pie perfect all around.

“The crust was moist but firm, the custard perfectly set but still creamy, and the meringue light and fluffy like a cloud,” Frank shared via email.

Once, after a failed attempt to bake the cake himself, Frank enlisted his mother’s help. She made one with him and shared her tricks and secret ingredients.

“So if you follow the recipe in the cookbook, it’s not going to be quite like that. She modified the recipe with some additional ingredients. And she adjusted the techniques of what to add and when. And the end result is this,” he said, holding up a cake so perfect Doris Litton could have made it herself.

Today, this signature graham cracker pie is a staple at Frank’s house. And he passes the tradition of the cake down to his daughters, including how to make it when they attend or return from school.

“I have three daughters. Grace is the middle one. Everyone likes it, but she likes it best. And so the tradition of eating graham cracker pie when the student comes home has passed down through the generations. I’ll bake it for her,” he said.

Looking back at lunches with his mother, Frank sees the privilege.

“It’s really one of those things that, in hindsight, really shows the value. I didn’t think about it when I was young. That was life – I had to have lunch with Mom every day.

“But the bond over food, looking back on it, I really appreciate that she was able to do that for me and with me and it’s something I really appreciate,” he said.

Cooking across the miles

“Wow, that smells good!” Megan Simpson and Ryan Jenkins’ kitchen is buzzing with activity, including their laptop sitting on the counter next to a cutting board and ingredients.

Her parents, sister and two nieces are there too – via Zoom, from their own kitchens near and far.

Preparing the ingredients before logging in is key.

“Has everyone turned on the water for the pasta?” asks Linda Simpson, Megan’s mother. Linda, a former high school English teacher, learned to cook by watching her mother-in-law and learning tips from teachers in the school lounge. Before she got married, she told her future husband Tom, “If you don’t like it, I’m still learning and there’s always peanut butter and bread.”

Linda grew up to be a wonderful home cook, preparing recipes her family craves. When asked about her favorites, Megan’s laptop screen lights up with quick replies.

“Beef Stroganoff and Lemon Pie,” says Emily from Colorado. “Vegetable soup,” sounds Tom in Vienna, WV. “Spaghetti and Pecan Dip!” agree Amy in Pittsburgh and Megan and Ryan in Charleston.

The family began cooking together on Zoom in December 2020 when Megan’s sister, Emily, was feeling isolated in Colorado during the pandemic. Meanwhile, Linda had recently had both knees replaced and needed Tom to cook.

The first recipe they tried, a shrimp pasta dish, wasn’t a hit, but the experience of cooking together stuck. They meet on Zoom every Thursday and take turns choosing the recipes.

The Simpsons focus on quick, easy dinners so they have time to eat together, too. They’ve cooked everything from steak tacos to banh mi rolls and even a “viral” TikTok feta pasta that remains a favorite. your biggest challenge? A crazy chicken.

Cooking together gives the family the opportunity to exchange ideas and have fun. It also gives Linda the opportunity to share expert cooking tips. “Mom answers all of our questions,” says Megan.

“My gravy is lumpy, is anyone’s gravy lumpy?” asks one of the daughters. “If the sauce is lumpy, make sure you’ve added all the ingredients,” says Linda. “Ah, I forgot the chicken broth!” Ryan replies quickly. As always, Mom is ready to save the day, even if she’s miles away.

I watch the family whip up a delicious dinner of peanut pasta with sautéed chicken, fresh veggies, cilantro, and lime. Watching the action unfold on Zoom is like watching a heated tennis match.

“You’ll have to use a whisk — I’ll whip the sauce with peanut butter. Make sure you do that, Megan,” advises Linda.

“Ryan does it,” Megan interjects.

“Great Ryan! Good job Ryan!” greets Linda.

“Your week needs some planning, we know Thursday’s meal is already planned, I just need to get the recipe and ingredients,” Megan notes.

Your best tips for cooking together?

“I’d say maybe read the instructions,” Megan says on-screen, to big laughs and knowing laughter.

“That way you know how long things are going to take or if you need to do something in advance,” she adds.

I feel like there’s a story or two there. But that’s what family fun is all about: bonding through shared experiences that make us appreciate each other, especially mom, even if it requires an internet connection.

mom chin

“The joke was that Mrs. Chin had the cleanest kitchen in town when she was a kid because she never came home to cook and was always at the restaurant,” Gordon Chin says of his mother, Susanna Chin.

Retirement after more than 45 years in the restaurant business gives “Mama Chin,” as family friends and close regulars call her, a unique opportunity: cooking together with her adult children, Eleanor and Gordon.

“She never had any formal education. She can taste and come up with her own recipe and know what to put in and prepare,” says Eleanor.

The Chin siblings, four in all, grew up with their mother cooking for them at Chin’s Restaurant in Charleston. They could choose anything their hearts desired. Favorites included butterfly prawns with bacon and grilled onions, prawns with lobster, chicken chow mein and Mongolian beef.

Ms. Chin, the baby in her family, said her parents took care of everything for her so she could not cook when she got married. Her uncle and brother helped her learn a few things and watching restaurant chefs over the years allowed her to absorb their knowledge and cook, improvise and create delicious dishes herself without ever knowing a recipe use.

“It was nice learning to cook with my mom late in life,” says Gordon, a self-proclaimed foodie who can’t cook.

“Now that Mom is retired, she has the time and patience to teach us two amateurs,” Eleanor adds with a smile.

Cooking on a smaller scale presents challenges for the experienced cook who is used to cooking in a commercial kitchen. Recently Mrs. Chin and Gordon made over 200 dumplings which they shared with friends and neighbors.

The trio plan to try Mama Chin’s famous egg rolls, roast duck and mapo tofu, silken tofu in a spicy sauce with ground beef, as well as a traditional Chinese dish, joong, steamed glutinous rice and pork wrapped in banana leaves.

During his working vacation, Gordon, like his mother, has extra time at his disposal.

“Now that I have more time, it’s fun to learn to cook more with my mom,” he adds, laughing.

According to Ms. Chin, patience and work are the keys to success in the kitchen.

“It’s like a dumpling. It doesn’t look great the first time, but as you want more, you’ll get better. You keep working, you practice,” says Ms. Chin, who teaches her children by example.

“When I make their favorites, I tell them come over and I’ll show you how,” she says.

“I think what people don’t realize or appreciate about any style of cooking, especially the non-chefs, is the effort and love that goes into it,” says Gordon.

“Yes, definitely a lot of love in Mom’s kitchen,” adds Eleanor.

Learning to eat their favorite dishes later in life is valuable to Eleanor and Gordon, and part of the value is the time spent together.

“Every time you’re with mom is a special time,” emphasizes Eleanor.

Like any recipe that stands the test of time, Mama’s Lessons are rooted in nostalgia but have been adapted over the years, particularly to fit a modern world. Traditions are not cultivated by staying the same, but by keeping up.

Perhaps the most important cooking lesson with mom is not a lesson at all, but simply time together. More than any single recipe or dish, these families value the special time they take to be with mom.

Spending time together in the kitchen offers more than pure nutritional supplements. It’s a chance to connect and feel nourished.

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