Sometimes cultures clash, but in my family, they blended beautifully when my mom was in the kitchen. My mother, Mamie M., has always loved the foods of her Italian heritage…just as much as my Syrian dad, the late Anthony Mosellie, enjoyed his culture’s foods.
When my sister, Christine, and I were growing up, Mom often combined the two cuisines with delicious results. And definitely, everything was made from scratch, including what I think is her best meal: Lamb and Beef Kabobs, Cilantro Potatoes, Syrian Salad and Pistachio Apricot Bars.
The grilled kabobs, seasoned with a lemon juice and olive oil marinade, can be served on or off the skewers. Mom’s tender, well-seasoned Cilantro Potatoes make the perfect side dish.
Syrian Salad marries Italian and Syrian ingredients such as Greek olives, prosciutto, and feta and mozzarella cheeses with traditional salad fixings. The yummy apricot bars provide a sweet end to this colorful meal.
Some of my earliest memories are of Mom cooking. Like her mother before her, she’d tell me to watch what she was doing so I’d “learn to cook.”
Mom, who grew up in Pennsylvania, was a seamstress from the age of 16. She always worked in blouse factories. My father didn’t want her to work after they married in 1947, but she was headstrong and worked until she was 62.
Still, she did all the cooking when Christine and I were growing up. But our large kitchen wasn’t only Mom’s domain. It was the focal point of all our parties, gatherings and meals.
Mom fixed gigantic meals, especially at holidays. Easter, Christmas Eve and birthdays were the biggest celebrations. People would tell me that my birthday parties were more like wedding receptions. Neighbors, relatives and friends often dropped in, and no one left hungry.
I remember so well the wonderful aromas of Mom’s cooking. On Sunday mornings, we’d smell the sauce cooking on the stove and meatballs frying while Italian bread baked in the oven. On summer Saturdays, she’d fry catfish in olive oil with garlic and cilantro—my dad’s favorite.
Mom turned 90 in July and still enjoys cooking from scratch. It was only last year that she used a microwave and ate a frozen dinner for the first time.
Mom and I still live in the family home (I’m a retired teacher). My sister is just a few miles away. My mother mostly cooks for holidays and when we yearn for a Syrian meal. Otherwise, I now do the cooking.
I love to cook and have even won some cooking contests, but I owe my success to my mom. Although I have learned a lot from her, no one can touch her cooking. I hope you’ll give her recipes a try!