<></><></>Some historians will tell you that Mother’s Day has deep roots in the traditions of our earth-worshiping pagan foremothers. Others look to the springtime celebrations of ancient Greece, which honored Rhea, the mother of all gods. Still others prefer to find historical antecedent in the fourth Sunday of Lent, which honors the Virgin Mary. All of these roots are probably true. Nonetheless, the fact remains that the current incarnation of Mother’s Day was pushed onto the calendar by a Pennsylvanian named Ana Jarvis whose mother died on the second Sunday of May, 1907.
In a bizarre and tragic twist of fate, her success at institutionalizing Mother’s Day was the beginning of the end for Mrs. Jarvis. She was constantly troubled by the commercialization of her beloved holiday. Once she filed a lawsuit in an attempt to prevent a Mother’s Day festival. She died alone in a sanatorium in 1948. Shortly before her death, she told a reporter that she was sorry she ever created Mother’s Day.
Nonetheless, by most accounts, Jarvis’ mom was indeed worth remembering. During the Civil War, the elder Mrs. Jarvis ran “Mothers’ Work Camps” in West Virginia. She declared these camps politically neutral, and they aided wounded soldiers on both sides of the war.
While this doesn’t get us any closer to the table, it does suggest that if we want to do any justice whatsoever to the concept of Mother’s Day, we should celebrate peace. Who better to understand the cost of war than the mother who doesn’t want her son to go?
All of this history sheds light on different aspects of mothering and mother earth. It’s a combination of qualities like these that compelled humans to worship goddess figures for centuries. Thus, the Mother’s Day meal should be a celebration of all things feminine. Hot dogs and “Rocky Mountain Oysters” need not apply. Peaceful, nurturing fare would be ideal.
To get some expert advice on what mothers want, I asked my mom.
“Strawberries dipped in chocolate,” she blurted instantly.
Although strawberries and chocolate is something of a no-brainer for catering to 99 percent of the world’s female population, the most important lesson I learned from my mom is that it’s very hard, if not entirely counterproductive, to give general advice on Mother’s Day food. Every mother is different, and Mother’s Day food should be all about what she wants.
When she said “I prefer food that is nostalgic, rather than exotic,” I think she struck the heart of the matter. Here is where a study of history—personal history—will really help. You want food with sentimental value that will trigger her heartstrings. But be forewarned: if you get it right she will probably cry.
Obviously, mom should be served. Mom shalt not cook, and mom shalt not clean. Brunch comes up often in the context of Mother’s Day, probably because brunch is indicative of a leisurely and indulgent morning. Let her get up and fart around at her own pace, while you prepare her favorite girlhood food, which in my mom’s case would be cheese blintzes.
And if your meal is in memoriam, or if mom is far away, cooking her favorite foods will nonetheless invoke her presence at your table. She will be well-remembered.
Strawberries Dipped in Chocolate:
I like a simple combination of dark chocolate pieces in a pan on low heat or, ideally, a double boiler. As it’s melting, stir in butter a little at a time for a smoother, shinier texture, up to a stick of butter per pound of chocolate. You can also add 1/2 cup Kahlua per pound of chocolate and/or a few tablespoons of sour cream. Other goodies can be added to the dipping mixture, such as coffee, condensed milk, or even coconut milk. It’s pretty hard to screw up, as long as you don’t overwhelm the chocolate content to the point where it won’t resolidify. I recommend lots of spoon licking and strawberry gobbling experimentation. After slowly melting the mixture, dip the strawberries and set them on a piece of wax paper on a cookie sheet. Chill—but don’t freeze—long enough to harden the chocolate.
Mom’s Blintzes, Updated:
Beat 3 eggs with 1 cup milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons oil. Add 3/4 cup sifted flour. Heat a little butter or oil in a 6-inch frying pan. Pour 3 tablespoons batter, coating the pan evenly and thinly. When the bottom is brown, turn it onto a plate or napkin, brown side up. Make the rest of the batter and pile them brown-side down. Beat 2 cups ricotta or mascarpone cheese with an egg yolk, a pinch of salt, 1 tablespoon melted butter, 2 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Slice a few room-temperature chocolate-dipped strawberries lengthwise. Lay the slices in the blintz, as thickly as you want. Roll. Fry in butter. Sprinkle with confectionary sugar. Serve with maple syrup, fruit sauce, or the chocolate strawberry coating sauce. Serve with mom’s choice of coffee or tea.