I owe my discovery for cooking to the 3 most incredible ladies in my life:
The first and foremost, being my mom Teresa … commonly known as Momma T in my phone contacts.
In a time where food allergies were still quite new, she did everything in her power to make sure I didn’t feel left out in my childhood, despite having numerous allergies. Many times, she would go out of her way and send me to birthday parties with my own individual egg-free cupcake — complete with homemade dairy-free frosting and bright peanut-free smarties
(none of this no-artificial colouring BS existed yet).
It was something that only a mom could ever do out of love for her child.
Momma T is the best baker I know. A lot of my childhood favourites revolve around food probably because of her ability to master everything I couldn’t normally enjoy as a kid. I’ve learned to love baking instead of seeing it as a chore. On top of that, she also just rocks at cooking classics with a twist — chicken pot pie, potato salad, meatloaf, spaghetti sauce, I could keep going. Nobody beats my Mom’s cooking, but to know that I can now apply her famous recipe renditions to my own life makes me really proud to have her as such a defining pillar in my food journey.
The next two wonderful ladies are my proud-to-be Polish Babcias — Christine (Babcia F.) and Danuta (Babcia W.).
Babcia F. is my soup-goddess. As a young girl, she sat me on the countertop beside the stove and walked me through the process of making homemade rosuł (chicken noodle soup), how to make basic flour dumplings, and explained to me that the limit does not exist when it comes to dill or parsley.
She taught me how to peel potatoes with a pairing knife, was the one to tell me you could use beet-root as natural lip stain or blush and still to this day, carries her knives around in her trunk like a crazy lady because nobody else’s knives compare. She also makes the best cabbage rolls in the family, and everybody knows it.
Babcia W. had a tender heart and was a tornado in the kitchen. She looked the other way and let me eat her best snap peas or strawberries out of the garden. She put buttery breadcrumbs on cauliflower and green beans which was just genius and a habit I can’t shake for the life of me. We also spent many afternoons drinking herbata (tea) and eating warm apple strudel in the sunroom.
She was the only person who made homemade pierogi in the family. One day during summer at the cottage, I must have been only 10, she patiently showed me the two day preparation–from kneading and cutting the dough, to making the classic cheese filling, and then par-boiling the dumplings for freezing. From what I know, I don’t think she had ever shown anyone else the entire recipe from start to finish.
Back then, I remember thinking,
“This will be a great memory for both Babcia and I.”
In 2016, we lost Babcia to stage-four cancer. It hit the family painfully hard and we celebrated her last days in December as a family on Christmas, surrounding her and smiling as she sipped some piwo (beer, Polish to be exact) at her request. Some family gatherings, I think about trying to recreate her pierogi for everyone, but I always end up standing down because it could never compare to Babcia’s.
Food has a story, as I’ve said many times before. I have these three important women to thank for creating these memories of food and helping create my story.
Peace and good eats,