I like to think my creations for Mother’s Day breakfasts in bed were less chaotic than classic portrayals of the event, where well-meaning children demolish the kitchen to deliver burnt toast and crunchy eggs.
I know the tray I brought to Mom didn’t leave true havoc in its wake — just a few repercussions that I’m guessing my dad patiently cleaned up while I carefully took in the breakfast and the credit. As my current cooking style unavoidably depicts, my mise en place is more a “messy all over the place” than anything else, and I’m guessing prep work wasn’t any neater in my youth.
Restoring the kitchen to its state of tidiness wasn’t Dad’s only annual role on Mother’s Day, however. As long as I can remember, there has never been a question about his other crucial responsibility.
A giant yellow fix-n’-mix bowl, heavy with the best potato salad you’ve ever had.
Also for as long as I can remember, when my mom’s family in Ohio gets together for Mother’s Day, the men are in charge of the meal. They can have assistance from females, of course, but the responsibility for planning and execution is theirs.
It’s actually not as scary as it sounds.
This tradition not only gives the honored women a break but guarantees a delicious Sunday dinner in the process.
The standard meal for years was Grandpa’s Italian-dressing-marinated grilled chicken, accompanied by Dad’s salad, various sides from one uncle, and a cheesecake involving chocolate made by my other uncle. The menu has since deviated from there, what with changing tastes and with my brothers and cousins skillfully taking on culinary delegations.
But one thing remains, and I hope always will: the potato salad.
The dishes my dad cooks can be counted on one hand, perhaps even if you’re missing a digit or two. I inherited my vocabulary from him, but he contributed not a whit to my joy of cooking.
The limited selection of foods he makes, however, he makes expertly — and I’m not saying that just because he’ll be reading this.
So for some people, this day in May that celebrates women might make you think of a special breakfast like I mentioned earlier, or perhaps an arrangement of spring flowers and floral-y greeting cards.
But my first thoughts are different, and I can envision it even now: a sink full of russets to be scrubbed, a carton of eggs to be boiled, a Tupperware bowl to be filled. Mom is probably helping because she and Dad like working together; they’ve lugged the shredding contraption up from the basement and I can already catch the tang of mustard in the air.
Mmm. Smells like Mother’s Day.
Amanda Miller writes a column about local foods for The Hutchinson News. She teaches classes at Apron Strings and makes cheese on her family’s dairy farm near Pleasantview. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org