How many of our food habits and grown-up cravings for comfort are shaped by the food we ate as kids? And how many of us learned a love of food from the mums and grandmas who raised us? For Mother’s Day this year, we’re championing the incredible mothers who passed their food knowledge and cooking skills onto us.
It might seem contradictory to celebrate women’s role in the kitchen. It was one that many resented and rightly so, but let’s not forget that for centuries women have been the bearers and tellers of food knowledge and skills that informed younger generations how to cook and eat in a way that was better both for our health and the planet. Whether that was knowing how to tend a vegetable patch, understanding what herb could help a stomach ache or the simple act of cooking a delicious meal. Take a moment this Mother’s Day to champion the women in your life and the lessons they taught you. Cooking a simple meal could be just that.
Georgina Hayden with her grandmother. Photo credit: The Visuals Team
Me and my mum always baked together when I was a kid, starting with simple fairy cakes, then onto more challenging things, like peach pies, birthday cakes and meringues. After that I was allowed onto the more complicated stuff with my grandmothers, or Yiayias as I call them. One of the first things I learned to make was ‘flaounes’; a Cypriot Easter bread, which is a thin dough stuffed with yeasted cheese, raisins and mint. They’re delicious and really hard to make. We would make around 150 with each Yiayia, which take around two days in total. As kids we were given the job of cracking tonnes of eggs, grating kilos of cheese, rolling out rounds of dough and the fun bit, filling and folding the breads. It was, and still is, my favourite time of year. Georgina Hayden – food stylist & cookbook author
A recipe that reminds me of my mum has got to be her homemade mayo. She’d make a big batch of it that would sit in a giant, blue glass jar at the back of the fridge, ready to slather onto late-night sandwiches or to liven up roast chicken leftovers. I think it showed me how much better food could be if you take the time to make it from scratch. Our friends would put in their orders, asking us to bring jars of it back to school. I caught up with a school friend recently who I hadn’t seen for 10 years and she asked me how my mum’s mayo was. It was as memorable as that. I’ve written up her recipe here. Alice King – Farmdrop recipe developer
“Soups, like her minestrone, left such an impression on me” – Gill Meller
So many of the things that mum made I have learned to cook from my memory. Soups, like her minestrone – which she made regularly and I absolutely loved – left such an impression on me that words, weights and measures were unnecessary. Instead, I can close my eyes and see her making it. I see the different vegetables and herbs, her dark oval chopping board and the heavy pan warming on the stove. I can see how it’s built up in layers. I can see the size of the little bubbles that rise to the surface as the soup simmers gently away. I remember the beans, the olive oil and the colour. But most importantly, the taste, texture and balance she was always able to achieve between her ingredients. Gill Meller – cookbook author & chef
“My mum’s love of creativity and play meant we experimented in the kitchen from a young age”
My mum wasn’t a confident cook. It was my Nana who was the cook and who first introduced me to cooking. She taught me the art of rolling out Welshcakes and cooking them on her ancient cast-iron skillet. But my mum’s love of creativity and play meant we experimented in the kitchen from a young age, getting as messy as possible and never panicking about clearing up afterwards. We started with salt dough christmas decorations, which still come out of the attic every December even now. This carried on until I was cooking family meals on school weeknights. I’d give my mum a list of ingredients to bring home from work and we’d experiment with pasta and cheese sauce, sweetcorn soup, chicken curry, trashing the kitchen as we went. Beth Thomas – Farmdrop Social Media Manager
Mother Ball was a trained cook and among the many tips she passed on, how to cook the perfect poached eggs is my favourite. There is nothing like a freshly laid egg poached on buttery granary bread to start the day. When your eggs aren’t fresh, mum taught me to add a little vinegar to help set the white, and it works every time. Nick Ball – Farmer, Fosse Meadows
“When your eggs aren’t fresh, mum taught me to add a little vinegar to help set the white.”
Whenever we’d make the annual trip to see my northern French grandparents, Mamie would have a cake in the oven. A cake she made so often, actually, that it eventually acquired her namesake. Her Gateau Paulette was spongy, light and moist. The colour of farmhouse butter and perfectly risen. My grandma always knew where to get the butteriest croissants, the best-tasting chicken and the creamiest salt-speckled butter cut like cheese and sold by the kilo. She didn’t teach either me or my mum to cook, but she definitely inspired in us a love of good food (and butter) that has meant we both acquired a passion for cooking in our adult lives. Malou Herkes – Farmblog editor
“Her Gateau Paulette was spongy, light and moist, and the colour of farmhouse butter”