My mom was a pistol.  Five-foot-two on a tall day, the only thing she loved more than a good get-together was being on the beach at dusk to watch the sandpipers running in and out of the surf.  She was equal parts mush and woman of steel – she loved a laugh and had a New England sense of humor that was so dry it could easily be blown about in the breeze if you didn’t look out for it.  But, as soft as she was, she could just as quickly cut the toughest person down to size with a death stare.

And, as I’ve mentioned, she loved to cook and made every holiday feel like it was just for you.  Thanksgivings in our household included no less than FIVE pies – pumpkin for my dad, mincemeat for mom, chocolate cream for my sister, lemon meringue for my brother and apple for me.  Of course, there was the rest of the dinner plus all the nibbles that would be on the table while we watched the Macy’s parade.  And that was just Thanksgiving – Christmas was three or four varieties of cookies, date nut bars, more pies, fudge (her fudge was legendary) and chocolate-covered-peanut-butter-balls.  And those were just the major holidays – birthdays were whatever we wanted, not just for us, but for as many friends as we wanted over.

As if this wasn’t enough, she did all this while working as an ER nurse, so after spending eight to ten hours of dealing with the worst that people can do to each other, she would take care of her clan.  Criminey, it makes me tired just typing that.

She’s been gone from us, now, for nearly 20 years but, there isn’t a day that I’m in the kitchen that I don’t think about her for one reason or another.  Sometimes, I’ll flip through old cookbooks or recipes of hers just to see her handwriting and I’ll laugh about the things she unwittingly taught me.  She used to read recipes with an eye to how she’d change it — to the point where I’d ask her why she wouldn’t make it as written just once!  So, because of that, I learned that recipes are just someone else’s framework and that cookbooks aren’t meant to remain pristine – write in them to remember the changes you made or want to make the next time you try the dish.

So, here I am, dozens of scribbled-in cookbooks and god-only-knows how many hundreds of recipes later, remembering my amazing mom and thanking her for the love she gave and the legacy she left of food, and laughter and celebrating life.

mom's outrageously yummy clam dip