Love to mothers everywhere

(Before we get started, two mom-related internet pieces well worth reading: I loved this Nation article responding to Hilary Rosin’s remarks on Ann Romney, a terrific look at how we value the work of motherhood. And I fully support this response to the ‘controversial’ breastfeeding mom on Time Magazine’s cover. Take a look!)

I miss my mom every day. Every day. I wish I could call her, or stop by and see her at her office, or email her a photo from my phone. Little things. Mostly they actually make me smile – I miss her, but I love her, and she would have loved my kids. But then on some days I catch a glimpse of the full scope of the loss – my Uncle Lance, who has lost both his parents, described it once as having the universe kind of opening up over your head, with nothing there to buffer you. You are exposed. And the chasm that yawns above you sometimes feels like it holds the entire world – family history, your own childhood stories, a parent’s unconditional love, a grandmother for your kids.

But then you remember something small – something like how much your mom loved lemon verbena. And it feels real and visceral and you can hear her voice, it is in your head of course, but you know just the inflection, just the absolute exact way it would sound when she said smell this and smooshed it in her fingers. Or maybe you remember how, that last summer, when she couldn’t really eat anymore but she would still try, she asked you one warm Wednesday evening to go and pick up butternut squash ravioli in brown butter and sage sauce – from that place on College, the ones that were almost more dessert than dinner. And she managed a bite or two and you finished hers, and then threw yours away because you hadn’t been able to resist ordering two full meals, just in case.

You remember those things and then suddenly it is easier, and you can imagine how, if her grandkids had made her a card this Mother’s Day, she would have loved it. You can picture her face lighting up, her laughter, her sparkly green eyes. And you know she would have kept those cards her grandkids made – on her dresser, by her bed, and eventually in a box. You know this because you sorted through years and years of her files and found them – swirled in with receipts and letters, manifestos and prayers. Card after card after handmade card. I love you mom. Happy Mother’s Day. 

Herbed Shortbreads
These recipes started life as Michael Ruhlman’s most basic cookie ratio in his instructive if dense book, Ratio: The Simple Codes Behind the Craft of Everyday Cooking. The original recipe makes a lovely, not-too-sweet shortbread style cookie. I have made it even less sweet, and then upped the flavor profile with the addition of herbs. It is a subtle cookie – what he perfectly describes as an “adult cookie” – and like all good shortbread it leans heavily on the butter flavor (use really good butter! Maybe even make your own). I think most any mom would enjoy a batch, this Sunday or any Sunday really. My mom would have loved them – and I do, too. :) 

Lemon Verbena Shortbread

8 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
15 or more lemon verbena leaves, chopped fine
1/2 cup all purpose flour (plus 2 tablespoons if needed)
1/2 cup spelt flour

Optional: additional sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy.  Add the lemon verbena and mix until it is blended in. Add the 1/2 cups of flour and mix well until a dough forms. You should be able to form this into neat balls – if it is very sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.

Make small (teaspoons of dough) balls and flatten slightly on the cookie sheets. If you’d like, you can give them a little sugar dusting. Put the cookie sheets in the fridge, and let the shaped dough chill for a few minutes.

Bake for eight to ten minutes or until the bottoms are golden and the edges just barely turning. Cool on racks.

This makes a lot of cookies! 25+. But they are very small, and they will go very quickly …

Sage and Browned Butter Shortbread

8 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons sugar
15 or more sage leaves, chopped fine
2 (more) tablespoons butter
3/4 cup all purpose flour (plus tablespoon if needed)
1/2 cup spelt flour

Preheat the oven to 350 F and line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until lightened and fluffy.

While that is creaming, melt the other butter over low heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. After it melts, add the chopped sage leaves. Let them cook over low heat until the butter browns and is very fragrant. Remove from heat.

Add the flours to the butter and sugar, and and mix until a dough forms. Add the browned butter and sage, and blend it in to the dough. You should be able to form this into neat balls – if it is very sticky, add another tablespoon or two of flour.

Make small (teaspoons of dough) balls and flatten slightly on the cookie sheets. Put the cookie sheets in the fridge and let the shaped cookies chill for a few minutes.

Bake for eight to ten minutes or until the bottoms are golden and the edges just barely turning. Cool on racks.

This also makes a lot of cookies! 25+ Your mom will thank you …

* * * * *

I think it’s worth trying to be a mother who delights in who her children are, in their jokes and earnest questions. A mother who spends less time obsessing about what will happen, or what has happened, and more time reveling in what is … A mother who doesn’t worry so much about being bad or good but just recognizes that she’s both, and neither.
- Ayelet Waldman

I looked on child rearing not only as a work of love and duty, but as a profession that was fully as interesting and as challenging as any in the world, and demanded the best that I could bring to it.
- Rose Kennedy

6 thoughts on “Love to mothers everywhere

    • Let me know how they turn out! We love them. I am a Ruhlman fan too – there is something very straightforward and comforting about his writing style. A little dry … but definitely reliable! :)

  1. Hello Hannah,

    Besides keeping you in my kindreds bookmarks folder, the stories you share about your mom I keep in my Hope folder, one I created recently for a story happening in my life right now. Thank you for your beautiful voice.

    • Patricia I am so glad to hear that you find something here that offers hope, whatever your story may be. Thank you so much for letting me know.

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