I celebrated Julia Child’s birthday yesterday recalling her encouragement during a time my ideas about food writing had been challenged by my mother, who described the shift as a “ridiculous limit of my talents.”
Several years later, mom, a great cook who had also earned a doctorate in education, accompanied me on what she described to my dad and siblings as a “Thelma and Louise road trip” to The Greenbier resort “for the spa only,” while I attended Toni Allegra’s amazing Symposium for Professional Food Writers.
When I emerged from the first morning’s seminar to find mom and Julia Child seated together on a couch in an alcove in the midst of an animated exchange, I must have looked concerned.
“I was explaining my secrets for Mobile gumbo,” Mom said as we rushed to keep spa appointments. Later that evening, my mom, the smartest and most fearless woman I have ever known, brought the subject up in a soft voice.
“I see what you mean about recipes. They’re about a lot more than how to cook. They’re about culture and history. When I get home, I’m going to send you some books and write out some old recipes you may be able to use as a food writer,” she said with a smile, adding, “There’s a lot of work to be added about African American contributions. I’m going to enjoy helping you.”
Last night I went to sleep filled with gratitude for the help, encouraging words and empowerment I have received along the way, remembering that it’s my turn to try to fill the large oven mitts my heroes left behind.