Granola and carrot cake are the two foods that remind me of my mother. For as long as I can recall my mother has started her day with bowl of granola. She claims it’s the only breakfast food that will hold her until lunchtime.
As for the carrot cake, when I was growing up, every birthday in my family was celebrated with carrot cake and vanilla ice cream. This was never something that was decided — it was just understood. To this day, it is rare that a birthday of mine or my husband’s passes without a layered carrot cake slathered in cream cheese frosting. There is no other way to rightly mark the passing of a year. Thank you, Mom.
In the spirit of Mother’s Day, we polled another group of influencers when it comes to what we eat — Austin chefs — about their favorite memory of food mixed with mom.
Here is what they have to say:
David Bull, Congress & Second Bar & Kitchen: "My favorite dish of my Mom's has always been her pasta salad — it has about 20 ingredients in it and it gets better day after day. I think she just continued to add more things to it as the days went by. But I remember always having pasta salad and I can never seem to make it the same way. Also every christmas she makes puppy chow — some type of sugar coated Chex Mix that is crazy good.”
Jason Donoho, Asti & FINO: "We have a dish on the brunch menu [at FINO] that is a waffle dish my mom has been making since I was a kid. It's a yeasted waffle so you make it the night before. It's a fond memory for me. At home we eat the waffles with the traditional butter and syrup. At the restaurant, we have two versions — one sweet and one savory. The sweet is served with orange vanilla butter and topped with chopped marcona almonds and powdered sugar. The savory is served with slices of maple and pepper glazed pork belly and a fried egg."
"Growing up as a vegetarian my mom would cook all sorts of ethnic foods, but what I remember more is my least favorite food that she would make." - Shawn Cirkiel
James Holmes, Lucy's Fried Chicken & Olivia: "My favorite dish is my great-grandmother’s chicken and dumplings. Made with dark meat and Crisco, it’s definitely an old-fashioned supper with plenty of soul. It’s comfort food that my mom has made it for me all my life. It’s what I always get when I go home."
Tim Dorian, Uchiko: "I don't come from a cooking family, but my mom always makes me a broccoli and cheese casserole when I go home for Thanksgiving and Christmas. It's pretty bad for you, but she knows that I like it. My pops, he makes a great turkey, but my mom knows that the casserole is what I want."
John Bates, Noble Pig: "My mom used to make [and still does] pan-fried venison with mashed potatoes and creamed gravy. Growing up [in South Texas], we did a lot of hunting so there was always a lot of game on our table."
Shawn Cirkiel, Parkside: "Growing up as a vegetarian my mom would cook all sorts of ethnic foods, but what I remember more is my least favorite food that she would make. My mom used to combine grated beets, carrots and muenster cheese and bake it in a casserole. My stomach still turns just thinking about how I didn’t have a choice to eat and would be forced to! We laugh about it now and it’s always a veiled threat — to have to eat beets and carrots! It used to be a fight and now it’s a good memory."
Janina O'Leary, TRACE: "I would have to say my mom’s banana cream pudding. She would make it for birthdays or holidays. My mom would let me be her little helper in the kitchen and teach me how to make the pudding. I always enjoyed adding chocolate to the dish!"
Philip Speer, Uchi & Uchiko: "My grandmother used to cook a lot of amazing dishes and she really influenced me in the kitchen. We were always cooking. But the three things I remember the most are all toast. For a snack, she would always make me cinnamon toast served with apple juice. And for breakfast I remember her making French toast. Then for lunch she would make me cheese toast all the time."
"The Bandera Quail dish at Swift's Attic is inspired by my grandmother." - Matt Clouser
Bryce Murphree, Urban: “ I have two dishes I prepare because they remind me of my mother. They were my favorite dishes my mother made — I loved to eat them, but I also enjoyed watching her prepare them. They were King Ranch chicken casserole and a dish my Grandmother passed on to my mother, Chicken n’ Dumplings (hand rolled, of course).”
Eric Silverstein, The Peached Tortilla & Yume Burger: "Food was always a big part of the family growing up. We ate dinner together every night and my mom did most of the cooking. We used to make pot stickers a lot and I would help fold and stuff them. My mom is Chinese, and my favorite dish of hers is her chow fun. She makes it for me every time I go home."
Joe Anguiano, Eleven Plates: “For Thanksgiving my mom roasts a huge turkey and a 15-pound prime rib and makes her famous potato salad, stuffing, a different green salad every year, some veggies and her famous salsa and gravy. It’s to die for. For Christmas, it’s her red and green tamales. The masa has manteca ‘pork fat’ — no short cuts here. The masa is moist and filled with lots of meat and my mom makes this red chili stew sauce to go with the tamales as a topping. My favorite part is making tacos with this red chili stew the next day.”
Mat Clouser, Swift's Attic: "The Bandera Quail dish at Swift's Attic is inspired by my grandmother. We use her recipe for hot water cornbread. In fact, her name - Anna Mary - is even on the menu. It is a very simple dish: Boiled salted water is combined with finely ground corn meal to make a polenta-like mush that is then fried crispy on the outside, but stays moist in the middle, not too dissimilar to a hush puppy. We serve ours with grilled Lockhart quail, grape must reduction, and a rum and golden raisin compound butter. My family tends to order it when they come in and my grandmother's spirit lives on in that way."