friday feast: a little poem and pie for mother’s day

 

In my mother’s kitchen, there was always a gallon jug of Aloha Shoyu and a 100 lb. bag of calrose rice in the cupboard; garlic, ginger, toasted sesame seeds and green onions in the fridge, and papayas and bananas on the counter.

The middle child of 12 and second oldest daughter, Margaret was known in the family for her good Korean food, a style of cooking she learned from her mother and continued to develop through decades of practice. She never used written recipes for the Korean dishes, magically turning out batches of kimchi and other banchan, platters of bulgogi, kalbi, jap chae, shrimp and vegetable jhun, and bowls of mandu with the studied efficiency and honed techniques of a master chef.

 

Margaret’s 8th grade graduation picture. This is our oldest known photo of her. How did she look as a baby, toddler or grade school student?

 

Though she had a hutch full of English bone china, I think she valued most the set of stainless steel pots and pans she once purchased from a door-to-door salesman when I was 9 or 10. “Don’t ever give these away when I’m gone,” she reminded my brother and me repeatedly. “They don’t make cookware like this anymore.” She was right of course. Those pieces served her well for over 50 years and thousands of meals.

This simple ladle, used by my mother and grandmother to serve countless bowls of dumpling soup, was placed in Margaret’s casket when she died in 2014. What I would give for just one more bowl of her soup.

 

Loving those pots and pans says a lot about my mother. Unlike me, she usually opted for practical over pretty. And unlike me, she was more a cook than a baker — a cook guided by instinct who measured ingredients with the eye. Like the speaker in Hope Anita Smith’s poignant poem, “My Mother’s Kitchen,” I, too, wish I had paid closer attention, lingered and asked questions.

Say what you will about professional chefs and fancy restaurants; nothing compares to a mother’s home-cooked food, the way it feeds us physically and emotionally. Made with pure love and served with generous sides of comfort and reassurance, it always contains that special secret ingredient of knowing just what a child needs.

Torn paper collage by Hope Anita Smith.

MY MOTHER’S KITCHEN
by Hope Anita Smith

My aunt sings in the kitchen,
tries to woo food into tasting good.
She serves up “mystery meals” and waits
for us to pass judgment.
We all “Mmmmm” together
and raise our eyebrows ever so slightly,
hoping the gesture will act as a lever
to open our throats,
allow Aunt Nedra’s
home cooking to pass through.

My mother could cook.
I could smell how much she loved me
every time she prepared a meal.
She shopped at the same market,
brought home the same ingredients,
but between the bag and the pot
something happened.
It was as if each item — potatoes,
tomatoes, green beans —
wanted to be more just to please her.
I wish I’d stood beside her in the kitchen,
my head resting against her hip,
committing her recipes to memory.
The “secret” ingredients.
The ones that couldn’t be written down
because it wasn’t about measurement.
But I only stayed long enough to
lick the spoon,
kiss the cook,
let my finger skate along the icing wall of
a cake.
My mother would smile or laugh,
squeeze me tight,
offer up a kitchen secret.
I was too busy for cooking instruction.

I breathed in the scent of my mother
mingled with the smells from her kitchen,
an intoxicating aroma.
I thought,
“Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will pay attention.”
So many dishes are a disappointment to
me now.
Something is always missing.
Something I can’t quite put my finger on.
Sad that secrets can’t be passed on
from the grave,
and sadder, still, that I now know what it
is
to be hungry.

~ from Mother Poems (Henry Holt, 2009). All rights reserved.

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Here’s a wonderful video of Hope reading her poem:

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♥ A MOTHER’S DAY TREAT ♥ 

Margaret didn’t make many desserts, but she sure loved to eat them. She sent me this recipe for Blueberry Cream Cheese Pie shortly after I moved to Virginia years ago. It was one of those popular recipes making the rounds in Hawai’i, frequently appearing at family potluck dinners. If you opt for a pre-made graham cracker crust, there’s no baking required at all. The hardest part of this recipe is waiting for the pie to chill before eating it. I think Margaret would have liked a big piece for Mother’s Day.🙂

♥ BLUEBERRY CREAM CHEESE PIE ♥

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 8 oz. heavy or whipping cream
  • 1- 21 oz. can blueberry pie filling
  • 1 pre-baked pie shell (or 1 graham cracker pie crust)

Beat the cream cheese with the sugar and vanilla until fluffy. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the heavy cream until stiff peaks form.

Fold the cream cheese mixture into the whipped cream. Pour into pre-baked pie shell.

Top with blueberry pie filling and chill several hours before serving.

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♥ Several years ago, I asked Margaret to write down the recipes for some of the Korean dishes she made for New Year’s. You can find them in this post.

Epcot Center, late 80’s.

Did you cook with your mother when you were growing up? Which of your Mom’s recipes is your favorite?

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poetry fridayPoetry Goddess Sylvia Vardell is hosting the Roundup at Poetry for Children. Sashay on over and check out the full menu of poetic goodness being served up in the blogosphere this week.

🌺 HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY! 🌺

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wkendcookingiconThis post is also being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts. Put on your aprons and bibs and come join the fun!

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Copyright © 2016 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.

86 thoughts on “friday feast: a little poem and pie for mother’s day

  1. Oh,how I love this post and beautiful poem! Thank you! My mother left this world when I was twelve, but I have dear memories of watching her cook. Sometimes I’d help her roll and cut the dough for kopytki (Polish potato dumplings), or I’d sprinkle powdered sugar on the favorki (bow-shaped fried cookies.) But my favorite dish of hers was roast chicken with dill stuffing. I have tried to duplicate it for years, but it’s never as good as hers. Here’s to Moms everywhere. Thank you for filling our bellies and hearts!

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    1. Thanks so much for sharing your memories, Iza. I’m sorry you lost your mother at such a young age. I do love picturing the two of you in the kitchen making the dumplings and cookies. Somehow even though we try our best to replicate our mothers’ recipes, they’re never quite the same. Have a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend!

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  2. This is lovely, Jama. My mother, too, was of Polish descent. One thing she and my grandmother infrequently made was sour cream soup. I know, I know, it sounds awful, but I loved it. For years and years after they both died, and before the wonders of the internet, I looked for a recipe for sour cream soup. I never found it, but finally, about 5 years ago a library acquaintance of mine was teaching a Polish cooking class! I asked her if she had ever heard of sour cream soup, and found out that what I had been looking for is “white borscht.” (I still haven’t made it though, since none of the recipes I subsequently found seem to match my memory of the ingredients my mother used.)

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    1. How interesting — I’d never heard of white borscht! Does it have beets in it along with sour cream? Sounds like you’ll have to do your own experimenting to come up with a recipe that’s close to hers.

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  3. I agree – what a beautiful post and poem! My mother did not love cooking, but I remember her cooking up paintings in much the same way, and we always said, “Mmmm!” Many of those now hang in my house – beautiful reminders of her.

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    1. We’ve both lost our mothers in the recent past. And I do remember reading about your mother’s talented artwork. Paints, brushes and canvases instead of pots, spoons and platters. How lucky to have beautiful reminders of her creative spirit hanging in your home.🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Dear Jama, I love the Epcot picture.🙂 Also, Hope’s poem! Some of my fondest memories of my mother-in-law are of the times I shadowed her during holiday dinners, so I could try to make recipes of her pinch-o-this-dash-o-that style of cooking. I realize now a big part of the joy for her was the mystery created by NOT measuring. She was better at living in the moment than I! xo

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    1. I remember your mentioning your MIL’s wonderful cooking and how you tried to learn to replicate some of her dishes. Your comment made me smile because like you, I’m not as spontaneous as I’d like to be in the kitchen. That’s why I prefer baking — there are precise measurements and steps. My mother was good at winging it with whatever ingredients she had on hand.

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  5. I love seeing young you with your mother at Epcot, Jama. The poem makes us all a little teary remembering cooking with our mothers, and grandmothers! I remember making lemon meringue pie with my mom, celebrating that the meringue managed to rise so, so high! Now the grand girls make pie with me, and cook every night with their mom, “making” their own memories! In the poem, don’t you love the idea of vegetables wanting to please? Beautiful!

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    1. I love Anita’s poem, and the vegetables wanting to please was definitely my favorite part of it. Lemon meringue is my Dad’s favorite; I can’t remember my Mom ever trying to bake it, and the few times I’ve tried, the meringue was never as high as I’d wanted it to be. Love that you’re carrying on the tradition of baking with your granddaughters. Making of memories = food that lasts forever.

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  6. I remember making meatballs for the sauce or “gravy” as my mom called it, before mass on Sunday mornings. We would mix the chopped meat with eggs, parsley, garlic, and toasted freshly grated bread crumbs in a huge bowl. I always insisted that I put one in the hot olive oil, so one Sunday when I was about 5, my mom relented. What she didn’t know is that I would throw it in like a ball. Of course, there were tears and bandages, but I never remember them when I’m making my meatballs! I only remember the joy of cooking with my Mama.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Love this memory, Joanne! Sorry to hear about the hot oil injury; it’s a badge of honor now, isn’t it? Meatballs on a Sunday morning — beautiful!

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  7. Jama, your poem is just the right one for Mother’s Day. I found myself remembering my childhood watching my Nonnie roll out her dough for homemade pasta and rolling her wonderful Italian cookies in her loving hands. Her honey dolls were always a work of art and yummy to eat. My mom also a great baker prefered to bake alone in quiet so she would often stay up late filling the kitchen with aromatic smells. Last night I created a new recipe found on the internet for my friend’s Cinco de Maya party, chocolate chip tacos. Thank you for conjuring up these memories with your pie, photos, and poetry.

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    1. Chocolate chip tacos? Wow, that’s a new one.

      It sounds like baking was a kind of meditation for your Mom, which I can totally relate to. I get too distracted trying to cook or bake with other people in the kitchen. What wonderful memories you have of watching your grandmother roll homemade pasta and cookies. I KNOW they were probably soooooo yummy!

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  8. Love that photo, Jama! Your whole post, so heartfelt. I love my mom’s soups and desserts in particular. She knows that I am a sucker for a pecan pie. Hugs to you.

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  9. Mahalo for sharing your pictures and stories about your Mom. You are so fortunate Your Dad is a gem, still sharp as ever at 100+ years old. I’m glad that Jimmy still posts comments & pictures. The blueberry cheesecake looks yummy!

    >

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    1. We are indeed blessed that my Dad is still with us at 101! My mother lived a good long life too, just a couple months shy of her 90th birthday. There’s definitely longevity in our family. Thank you for visiting today, Patti!

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  10. Another perfect and delicious post, Jama. I love this line and all it connotes:
    I could smell how much she loved me
    every time she prepared a meal.

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    1. Yes, such beautiful lines. I love Anita’s entire book of mother poems. I didn’t realize at first that there would be a narrative thread running through them, and that Anita had lost her own mother at a young age.

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  11. Sad that secrets can’t be passed on
    from the grave,
    and sadder, still, that I now know what it
    is
    to be hungry.

    Oh, dear. Weeping in my tea.

    I just love that your mother sent you recipes that weren’t tricky or complicated – they were just things she thought would be good. You weren’t being challenged or schooled, you were being enticed! Just like the smells emanating from her stainless steel pots enticed… May her memory remain a blessing, my friend, and thank you so much for sharing her with us. ♥

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    1. She was definitely good at sending me doable recipes, always things she had eaten personally and enjoyed. I’m trying to adjust to the new way of celebrating Mother’s Day, through memories only, and I’m thankful for them.

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  12. It was as if each item — potatoes,
    tomatoes, green beans —
    wanted to be more just to please her.

    ^ I love these lines that taste like truth. My mother didn’t cook because she wanted to, she cooked because she had to (growing up my dad wasn’t in town on weekdays). And yet, the food still tasted like love. xo

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    1. As a working mom, my mother also found it challenging to cook at times because she “had” to. And you’re right, no matter what, it was still something homemade, not take-out, and no microwave meals then. Still something she made for us, and of course now I appreciate that more.

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  13. Thanks so much for this lovely post, Jama. Hope’s poem ends on such a sad note; knowing what it is to be hungry w/o mother. The sadder side of Mother’s Day for so many. Poetry helps. And photos of pie.

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    1. Yes, Mother’s Day is now bittersweet for me and for so many others. It’s true that you never stop missing your mother. A new kind of hunger. Anita’s poem says it so well.

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  14. Jama–such a loving and heartfelt post! I love the photo of your mother, and Hope’s poem is so moving–thank you for sharing this!!

    I never really cooked with my mother, but I have such fond memories of my paternal Nonna, and her homemade pasta! I still have her pasta machine, as well as her cheese grater. If only I still had her pasta wheel–that disappeared in one of my parents’ many moves. She used to make tortelli, and a kind of fried dough called gnocchi fritti–I can smell it now.

    Happy Mother’s Day!!!🙂❤

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    1. Mmmmm, another pasta maker! I’m drooling over the thought of that tortelli and the fried dough. Lucky you to have your Nonna’s pasta machine and cheese grater.🙂 Kitchen heirlooms are the best!

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  15. What a lovely post! I have a set of Johnson Brothers ‘Indie’ pattern, the same as your sugar bowl! I lugged it home in a Tesco shopping bag on an airplane in the late 1990’s!

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    1. You have such good taste in china!🙂 I only have a few pieces in that pattern — the creamer and sugar bowl and a dinner plate. You’re the only person I know who also has the buttons teapot from Ireland. Your kitchen sounds like my kind of place!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I love the lei-filled photo of your mom–that’s a treasure to keep. And I got a little misty eyed thinking of your mom being buried with that special ladle. I imagine that your mother’s dumpling soup tasted as good as my mom’s lukshen kugel (which I have the recipe for, in her handwriting. But somehow it doesn’t taste the same when I make it–and I am a better cook than my mother was!)

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    1. Drooling over homemade kugel. It’s uncanny that two people can make the exact same recipe and it turns out different.

      The lei picture is poignant because my mom didn’t have a real high school graduation. During her senior year, her school was used for military operations right after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. So 8th grade graduation was the biggie in her life.

      I “almost” brought that ladle home with me from Hawai’i, but decided to retire it as she and my grandmother were the queens of dumpling soup. I’m glad I thought to take a photo before we handed it over to the funeral home.

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  17. This was a delicious post! I cooked some with Mom, but the fascinating cook in our family was my grandmother on Dad’s side, from Newfoundland. I mostly watched her cook. She could never tell me her recipes as they were never measured out. So I watched her closely as she made carrot pudding, deep dish apple pie, biscuits and boiled lobster. She was an amazing cook.

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    1. All the comments today are making me drool! Carrot pudding and deep dish apple pie and biscuits and lobster! Sounds like you all ate very well.🙂

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  18. What a beautiful post, Jama. My mom was a good cook and an excellent baker of all things sweet and tasty. I still have many of her recipes in my files, along with some she clipped out of newspapers or magazines because she thought we might like them. Even if I know I’m not likely to make them, I’ll never get rid of the recipes–they usually have her handwritten notes on them, which always make me smile. By the way, I’m pretty sure we had the same pie recipe, but with cherry pie filling. Yum.🙂

    Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m the same way. Won’t throw my mom’s recipe cards or newspaper clippings away because of the handwritten notes. This was a common recipe and yes, cherry pie filling would be just as good! Happy Mother’s Day!!

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  19. Oh, Jama, I always love your posts about your dear mother, may she rest in peace.

    I love this line from the poem:

    “I could smell how much she loved me”

    {{Hugs}}

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  20. Your mom would be proud of this post, Jama, created with the best ingredient of all, love.
    This line from Hope’s poem resonates with me:
    “between the bag and the pot
    something happened”
    I’ve never quite figured out what the magic is, but I do my best. The blueberry cheesecake is in my future. =)

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  21. Great post, Jama. As a cook, my mom was an Aunt Nedra, not a Margaret. She was notorious for burning the biscuits. When there were family gatherings, the Aunts and Uncles would always quickly volunteer to have meals at their houses instead of ours, so they could avoid my mother’s cooking. She tried, she really did. Bless her heart. But something always seemed to go wrong. Hence they’d say, “just bring something simple. Maybe you could buy the rolls and bring those.” And, yes I take after my mom when it comes to cooking, it is wonderful that I’m married to a scientist who loves to cook gourmet meals. I’m such a lucky girl.

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    1. A scientist who cooks gourmet meals? Wow! You ARE a lucky girl.

      I think we all have or know an “Aunt Nedra.” It only makes family dynamics that much more interesting, and your words here have endeared you and your mother to me. There’s more than one way to express love and more than one way to feed a child’s spirit.

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  22. I love the pictures and the emotions in this post. It’s infinitely sweet. I lost my mother young, and I still have a recipe book she left from Hawaii – Wiki wiki kau kau. Which translates to fast food, if I’m not mistaken. And she left recipes with cheesecake and blueberry topping. LOL The rounds made it as far as my mom. That’s a beautiful poem, too.

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  23. What beautiful and vivid memories you have of Margaret. She is smiling with the happiest of smiles. Thank you for honoring Mothers’ Day.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Alison!! I still hear her voice telling me many things. One of them is, “I love bread.”🙂 Happy Mother’s Day!

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  24. Oh this brought tears to my eyes — I love this post. I cooked and still cook with my mother as often as I can.

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  25. Hi, Jama, your posts are always the most delectable treats– in every way! Thanks so much for joining my Poetry Friday gathering, for showcasing Anita’s lovely book, and for sharing your beautiful mom and your memories of her with all of us.

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    1. I do love the entire book but this particular poem resonated most with me this week. Thanks so much for hosting PF!

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  26. This post was very touching. I loved my mother’s cooking but my favorite was her chicken and dumplings. That pie looks so good!

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  27. You are blessed to have such wonderful memories of your mom, and that she was a gifted cook. Your post was a beautiful tribute to her for Mother’s Day. Thanks for sharing the story with us, and the special poem as well.

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  28. What a beautiful post Jama. I lost my mother a couple of days after Mother’s Day last year and I will admit this year is very hard for me. But my mom was a wonderful cook and baker of the best cookies–according to anyone that tasted one ever.😉 She especially gave me a love of soup and the making soup that has me thinking about her whenever I pull my soup pot out. Thanks for sharing the lovely poem too.

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    1. Sorry to hear you lost your Mom too, Deb. I lost mine about a month before Mother’s Day in 2014. Thanks for sharing about your mom’s cookies and soup. It’s strange how remembering can be both happy and sad.

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  29. Such a beautiful, heartfelt post. Even though my mom is still alive, it’s been years since she cooked. However, ever since I’ve been on my own, I’ve made my favorites of the dishes (mostly casseroles) that mom cooked throughout my growing up years. Those foods are still a part of my everyday life, and in that way, she will never truly leave me!

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  30. My heart was wrenched out of my chest as I read this post. Beautiful tribute to your mother and mothers everywhere.
    These are my favourite lines:
    I breathed in the scent of my mother
    mingled with the smells from her kitchen,
    an intoxicating aroma.
    I thought,
    “Tomorrow. Tomorrow I will pay attention.”

    – I didn’t pay attention, myself. Good thing my husband did.
    Perhaps someday I could write something like:
    “My Husband’s Kitchen.”🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love the emotional resonance of Smith’s poem. She was able to convey so much through her simple words. Definitely a poem for all ages too. I think you’d enjoy her book, Mother Poems. Highly recommend!

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  31. What a great tribute! She sounds like she was a great cook, and a great person as well!
    Erik
    P.S. Is the cheesecake recipe for a “wet” cheesecake – more of a soft cheese than a cake? My aunt makes a great wet cheesecake (I don’t know if that’s the term), and we have been trying to get her secret recipe for years.🙂

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    1. The filling for this pie is pretty soft and light because of the whipped cream that’s mixed with the cream cheese. Not entirely sure what you mean by “wet cheesecake.” I wouldn’t call this recipe a cake.

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      1. Well, I’ve seen (and eaten!) cheesecakes that were more cake, and were firm, but then my aunt makes a cheesecake (or cheesepie maybe?) that is rather soft, and isn’t as dry and firm as normal cheesecakes. Honestly, this recipe sounds/looks similar.🙂

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  32. Thanks for sharing the photo of your mom and the one of the two of you! Love!

    Hope’s poem is just wonderful…a happy-sad that stays with you.

    My mom was an amazing cook. She is still alive but has dementia and can’t remember how to cook even her favorite things. She taught class at a local kitchen shop. Her cream pies were the absolute best and everyone wanted to know how to make them and attended her classes. I have three sisters and all of us can cook her pies! We did stay and watch and listen long enough to learn that. Chocolate, banana, and coconut. Everything from scratch…crust, pudding, and then topped with meringue. Along with learning to make cream pies, she taught us to make delicious cobblers.
    One other thing the four of us all still cook is her homemade soup.

    Thanks for this post…it was fun to reminisce.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yum yum yum!! Thanks for sharing about your mom’s amazing cream pies. That is SO cool that she used to teach a class in a kitchen shop. Lucky daughters to learn her recipes for chocolate, banana and coconut. Drooling. And her cobblers sound good too, along with homemade soup. I can see she fed her family very well.

      Liked by 1 person

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