I got lucky in the parent lottery. My mother was an artist and a dreamer; my father was an Army lawyer and practical. I inherited the best of both of their personalities, along with my mother's blue eyes and my father's crack memory. My parents gave me the kind of love that sustains you your whole life and that's good because I was still young when they died and I miss them still.
Two things I inhereited from my parents have significantly shaped my adult life. They both loved to read and they both loved good food. I grew up in a house surrounded by books--my mother loved mysteries; my father mostly read history and other non-fiction.
They encouraged me to read anything and everything. Once, when I was 13, I loaned a book I'd read, something by Max Schulman, to a school friend. Her mother showed up at our door, furious that I had loaned her daughter such trash, demanding to talk to my mother, who didn't censor what I read and didn't really understand the other woman's outrage. Max Schulman was the man who invented Dobie Gillis and though I no longer remember what the offensive book in question was, even at 12 I thought the woman was making a mountain out of a molehill.
My mother taught me to cook and when I moved to Los Angeles, I continued to use the recipes she'd taught me--Southern comfort foods like mac and cheese, exotic meals she'd picked up in her reading, like the Pakistani kima (curried meat and peas), favorites from friends, like a pizza sauce recipe that has won me raves at parties over the years.
It's Mother's Day this weekend. To celebrate, I offer you the recipe for my mother's favorite chocolate cake.
Happy Mother's Day.