Happy Birthday from Mom

Her mom's best meal, a birthday dinner, was a long-lasting gift.

By Genny M., Redding, California

Mom Margaret with daughters Kylie and Maddi

Mom Margaret with daughters Kylie and Maddi

SOME of my favorite memories as a child revolve around the kitchen table of my mother, Margaret S.

I grew up on a remote Indian reservation in northwest California (my brother, Riley, and stepfather, Stormy, are Native American). With the closest restaurant an hour away, Mom’s kitchen was the choice for most of our meals.

She made home-cooked meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner almost every day of the week. Since the supermarket was also an hour away, Mom became a master of improvisation. Some of our favorite recipes evolved because she had to adjust recipes to accommodate the ingredients she had on hand.

Mom's meal image

Birthday Menu

Birthdays were the highlight of the year because Riley and I could choose anything we wanted for dinner.

My choice was Mom’s savory Fried Chicken Strips, cooked to golden perfection in a crunchy cracker coating. Waiting for the strips to cool was almost more than I could bear, so Mom would let me sneak a bite before dinner.

There were no better accompaniments than her Poppy Seed Pasta Salad and Round Whole Wheat Loaves followed by Chocolate Torte.

Mom found ways to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables from her glorious garden into almost every meal. That’s how she created refreshing Poppy Seed Pasta Salad. Wherever she takes this salad, she’s asked for the recipe.

The smell of fresh baked bread often greeted people as they entered our house. Mom’s buttery Round Whole Wheat Loaves are hands down the best whole wheat bread I’ve ever tasted.

Her triple-layered Chocolate Torte was the crown jewel of my birthday celebration. Because Mom baked from scratch, I didn’t know there was such a thing as a boxed cake mix until I was 10 years old.

Learning from Mom

My mother learned to cook from her mother, who is legendary for her Scottish shortbread. Mom grew up in Canby, California and still lives there, next door to her mother.

I didn’t take much interest in cooking when I was young. So I’m surprised at how much cooking knowledge I picked up from Mom without even knowing it. The first time I tackled her Chocolate Torte, I marveled at how much work was involved in baking from scratch and how many cakes Mom made over the years. It made me appreciate those birthday cakes even more.

I’m lucky enough to be a stay-at-home mom, so I cook often. My husband, Clint, who’s a computer network administrator at a hospital, and I have three daughters, Kylie, Maddi and Avery.

Even though I live in a city with fast-food restaurants on every corner, I share home-cooked meals with my family almost every night. One thing Mom taught me is that a real “taste of home” can’t be bought at a drive-thru window.

I hope her recipes will bring you as many wonderful memories as they have brought me.