The seven best pieces of advice from our mothers’ kitchens

Depression-era_momMother knows best.

Seriously. Whether it was admonitions to always take along a jacket, or exhortations to send a handwritten thank-you note, or reminders to eat your vegetables before asking her for dessert, your mom’s practical advice always had your best interests at heart.

Yeah, sometimes, at the time she was telling you what you ought to do, you might have thought her advice was eccentric — or even excessive. Or that her ideas of propriety were, you know, outdated.

But now, looking back, you see that a lot of your mom’s advice turned out to be common-sense rules for daily living.

Especially when it comes to what to cook and how to cook it, your mother’s advice was informed by many years of feeding you and the rest of your family, every day, until you were all big enough to fend for yourself in the kitchen.

So, in honor of Mothers’ Day 2017, here are seven of our favorite bits of advice from our mothers’ kitchens that still ring true today:

  1. Farmers_Market_Opening_Day_2015Marry someone who’s a good cook. Or at least surround yourself with friends and loved ones who love good food (and your good cooking) as much as you do. [Corollary: cooking doesn’t have to be fancy to be good. A fried egg sandwich is delicious when somebody else makes it just for you.]
  2. Buy and cook what’s in season. Eating local is fresher, so it tastes better. It also promotes cultural and bio-diversity, positively impacts the local economy, and – best of all – gives you a good reason to get up early on Saturdays between May and October to see what’s happening at the Downtown Farmers’ Market.
  3. Heirloom_Baby_TomatoesUse sugar, salt and fat in your cooking. Go ahead — in moderation, these ingredients are crucial to the flavor of dishes you make, and bring out the intended result in your recipes. Use that pat of butter, or that tablespoon of bacon fat. Don’t forget to salt the pasta water (and the pasta sauce). And that spoonful of sugar doesn’t just make the medicine go down — it also balances the acidity of tomatoes, lemons, or vinegars in sauces and dressings.
  4. It’s okay to take shortcuts in the kitchen. Splurge on pre-prepped ingredients (we top homemade pizza dough with stuff from the salad bar all the time!). Use (gasp) a boxed mix as a base from which to create a custom dessert. Have a stash of favorite spice rubs and blends to make basic carry-out meals into delicious dinners.
  5. You need to spend some time outdoors each day, regardless of the weather. It’s a scientific fact (and it was not just your mom shooing you outside to get you out of her hair): spending time outside is good for your health. Granted, it’s not as much fun to be outside during an Iowa winter as it is to be outdoors this time of year. But grilling out is an excellent way to enjoy some outdoor time, at least three seasons of the year. And in winter, you can reward yourself for time spent outside with a cozy cup of cocoa when you’re done.
  6. When it comes to treats, you might as well make a double batch. It’s not science, but it is common sense: when you’re already making a batch of treats to share at school or work, it’s hardly any more trouble to make extras to enjoy at home.
  7. Kick-casserole-2017-aspic-paradeAnd finally, observe the “one polite bite” rule. Even the most picky of eaters (by the time they’re adults, anyway) should be able to commit to eating one bite when a new and unfamiliar food is presented. Some foods seem strange and perhaps even a little scary until you give them a try. The “one bite” policy means you aren’t obligated to eat a whole portion of something that turns out to be weird, you just have to taste it, so that you’ll know, for future reference, that you (do or don’t) like it.

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