The Mae-vens

In many ways, this collection of stories and recipes is dedicated to these two amazingly wonderful women who rarely took no for an answer, and if they did, it wasn’t for long.

My Grandmother, Mabel Dorothy Gladys (a.k.a., Mae, Gramma, and Grandmama) on the left;

and my Mother, Dorothy Mae (a.k.a., Dot and Mama Dorothy) on the right.

The Mae-vens |

The Mae-vens

My Grandmother

…is no longer with us, but I often feel her presence when I’m in the kitchen.

I didn’t learn as much about cooking and baking as I would have liked at my grandmother’s knee, but I did watch her whenever I could and she was always happy to answer my questions. While I wish I would have paid more attention to her “secrets” when I had the chance, I have so many memories of her fearlessness – both in and out of the kitchen – and her delicious food and the incredible warmth and that filled her world.

Every time we went to Gramma’s house, we knew she’d always have fresh, delicious treats for us on her big farmhouse table, and she was usually cooking up even more deliciousness in the kitchen. I actually think she timed it just so the kitchen was filled with the most incredible aromas when we arrived. She was sly like that.

And dinner was always served around that big farmhouse table with perfectly mis-matched silverware and chairs pulled from every room in the house so everyone could sit…

And we chatted and caught up over the mountains of beautiful homemade food before us…

And the grown-ups spoke in the family dialect of Old High German when they talked about things the kids weren’t supposed to hear… {Looking back, I now think they pulled out the old language when the family gathered just to make sure there was always a place at the table for “the old people” who were no longer with us…}

And there was always a dog under the table waiting for treasures to hit the floor…

It was loud and amazing, and because several family members lived nearby, there were at least 10 or 12 people around that table at any given time…

And it was w.o.n.d.e.r.f.u.l.

And just when you thought dinner was over, Gramma would bring something special from the kitchen, and everyone would gasp with excitement – as if we hadn’t come to expect it – because, it seemed, Gramma lived for making desserts for her family.

She had a very special gift for feeding people. Everything she cooked and baked was utterly divine.

Her recipe collection consisted of crinkled magazine snippets and dog-eared, hand-written cards covered with drips and spatters – the absolute best kind of recipe collection there is! She used her recipes mostly for inspiration. Every time you asked her how she made something, she shrugged her shoulders and grinned and said, “I just do a little of this and a little of that until it tastes right”. She was a no-recipe kind of gal long before no-recipe recipes were popular, and that’s the kind of home cooking that still shapes my interests today.

Her recipe collection “mysteriously disappeared” when she passed away. Crazy family dynamics aside, I prefer to think that she took them with her so we’d have to explore and create our own recipes based on our memories of the wonderful things she made. {Challenge whole-heartedly accepted, Grandmama!}

My mother

…inherited my grandmother’s gift of feeding people, and I’d like to think that she passed the gift on to me as well (although I’m still working on it…). I often feel my mother’s presence when I’m in the kitchen, too. Thankfully, it’s usually in the form of her calling to tell me she just saw a new recipe on a cooking show that she’s sure I’ll love.

I also have a growing stack of recipes that she prints out for me. {Because God knows I don’t already have enough recipes at my disposal.}

As if there would be any question, I always know which recipes are from my mom because she writes my name on each one, and adds little notes like, “This sounds like you!” or “Make this the next time we come over for dinner!” or “Yummy!” And, each recipe is printed on paper that was originally used by my brother’s hockey association when mom used to help coordinate their games and programs. Nuthin’ says lovin’ like a casserole recipe with an ice hockey rink diagram and game strategies on the back of it. {Priceless!}

My mother says she taught herself to cook shortly after she and my dad were married. She was asked to bring something to my dad’s family’s holiday dinner, and apparently she nailed it right from the start. To my recollection, my dad’s family always seemed particularly excited to “see what Dorothy made this time,” and they were even more excited to get to eat the things she made.

She continues to bring her adventurous kitchen spirit to every family gathering today. Like many other members of her family, if you tell my mom to bring a dessert, she brings three. And a dip. And probably some cookies and a random salad (that she stayed up until 3 a.m. to make) as well.

When mom and dad arrive for a family dinner, dad usually comes in first carrying boxes, bags, pans and plates all to be used (or not) for the multiple dishes my mom decided to bring. And then mom follows, asking dad if he remembered the maraschino cherries and the whipped cream. Inevitably, something will have been forgotten. And invariably, mom will roll her eyes like only she (and I – because she shared that “gift” with me as well) can do.

And then everyone seems to arrive at the same time – always just a little later than the agreed upon time (which, to be clear, is never the fault of any of the men in my family)…

And suddenly, the house is filled with noises and voices and food…

And there are children running around, and the dog is barking…

And through it all you hear the sounds of ice cubes hitting the side of a glass and the unmistakably beautiful “pop” of a wine cork…

And no matter how much counter space you think you have it’s never enough…

And “where are the forks again?” and “Oh! When did you get this?”…

And you can’t even hear yourself think with all the commotion…

And because of it all your heart is full and you count your blessings twice because all is right and wonderful in the world.

For these reasons, and so many more, I often talk about The Mae-vens. And because they’re such an important presence in my life, I wanted them to have a special place here at the Bacon Fatte table so you could “meet” them, too.