Friday, October 3, 2014

What My Mother Taught Me

My mom’s birthday was last week. We celebrated her with balsamic grilled chicken and ratatouille, pumpkin flavored coffees and hummingbird cake. In my family, we have the notion of ‘birthday week.’ It’s like birthday Hannukah. Because the folks in our family are so awesome it takes several days to celebrate them properly. Obviously.

A while back, I read one of Shauna’s posts called “What my Mother Taught Me”, (which you should definitely read) in celebration of her mother. I thought that was a grand idea. So, here is what my mother taught me.

My mom taught me to love coffee, the smell of pumpkin candles, herb gardens, and cleaning the house with the windows open. She pushed me to try (and love!) vegetables in the Year of the Expansion of the Palate when previously, I was satisfied exclusively with meat, cheese, fruit, and carbs.

Yes, we did actually call it the year of the expansion of the palate. Because we’re that awesome. Hence a whole week for birthdays. Anyway.

My mom taught me to love food, and more importantly, to show love to people through food. From a very young age I was tagging along with her, taking food to people who had babies or were recovering from surgery or who had lost family members, and I learned that sometimes food is seriously the only thing that can bring some comfort. She taught me how to identify a ripe fig from an unripe one, and how to turn some stray dewberries into a slam-bang dessert. She taught me how to put a fussy child to sleep (tickle their backs and read them another story) and how to take care of a sick husband.

She taught me how to speak up for myself, how to roast a turkey, how to carry myself in intimidating situations, and how to intentionally serve people. She has taught me how to apply for jobs and how to graciously quit jobs, to put myself out there and to show restraint. She taught me that it’s okay to say “I can” confidently, when my first reaction is to say “I can’t.” She taught me that making other people feel loved and valued is the most important and honest thing we can do in this life, even when it means making ourselves feel a little less important.

Thank you for dedicating so much of your life to so diligently teaching me. Happy Birthday, Moth.

Hummingbird Cake

Very slightly adapted from Kinfolk Cookbook

                For the cake:

1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple

3 ripe bananas, finely chopped

¾ c. shredded sweetened coconut

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 c. flour

1 3/4c. sugar ( I haven’t tried it, but I imagine this would be very good with brown sugar too.)

1 tsp. Baking soda
1 tsp. salt 

3 large eggs, beaten 

1 cup oil
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 
3/4 c. chopped pecans

For the frosting:

2 8 oz. packages cream cheese, at room temperature

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened (dont die.) 

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4 c. confectioners sugar

Remaining pecans for garnish

Arrange oven racks so that the oven is split into thirds. Preheat oven to 350. Grease two 9' round cake pans (preferably spring form) with butter. Dust with flour and then discard excess.

Combine all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Mix in chopped bananas, crushed pineapple, pecans, eggs, and coconut. Mix until just combined. Pour half of the mixture into each prepared pan. 
Set one pan on the top rack, one on the bottom and switch halfway through baking. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Transfer the cakes to racks and cool in the pans for 10 minutes, then let them cool directly on the racks for about an hour. 

While the cake cools, beat the cream cheese and butter with an electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Decrease speed to low and slowing add the confectioners sugar and vanilla. Beat for 3 additional minutes. 
To assemble, spread the frosting between the layers, scattering some of the remaining pecans in between. Frost the top and sides, press remaining chopped pecans onto the sides and serve with all the befitting pomp and circumstance.

Eat with the people you love. (And serve with a big glass of milk.)

Serves 8.


  1. Love your Moms cooking- my favorite has to be one of her coffee cakes served warm of course! Everyone in the family has a favorite Carole recipe!

  2. Just had some time to sit down and catch up on your blog. It's beautiful. And you're beautiful. And I miss you.