Our most beloved reminiscences of Mom often involve sights, sounds and smells from the kitchen — flour-dusted rolling pins, simmering savory soups and lattice-crusted pies that soothed the soul with every piping-hot bite.
When we asked readers to share their most treasured recipes from their mothers and grandmothers, we received a banquet of diverse dishes paired with sentimental stories, some of which had us reaching for a tissue.
There was the banana nut bread submitted by Kathryn Thompson of Aledo, who kept her mom’s cooking utensils and serving dishes after she died of cancer. “Every time I use them, I feel close to her,” she wrote.
A Hawaiian-inspired “cowboy” stew came from Darlene Smyth of Granbury, whose Hawaiian mother met her father, a member of the U.S. Navy, while working at Pearl Harbor.
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And sweetly written on a 3-by-5 index card came a 100-year-old recipe from Wendell Owen of Arlington for his grandmother’s tea cakes.
Narrowing down recipes to feature from among the dozens submitted was difficult, but here we share six of them from readers who pay tribute to their mothers and grandmothers by carrying on their time-honored traditions in the kitchen.
We hope they inspire you to recall, and maybe even re-create, cherished dishes from your family as well.
Meyer baked beans
Jim Meyer, Arlington
When Jim Meyer moved away from his Wisconsin hometown at 19, he yearned for his mom’s sweet baked beans. The bacon-covered dish originated from his great-grandmother on his dad’s side and requires homemade ketchup made from fresh tomatoes.
“My mom sent me a bottle of ketchup so I could make the beans when I wanted,” says Meyer, who now lives in Arlington. His parents, Nancy and Richard Meyer, later followed him to Arlington after they retired. “She had to walk me through the recipe over a long-distance phone call, back when long-distance phone calls were kind of expensive.”
Meyer fondly recalls childhood summer gatherings where the family baked beans, at the time made by his dad’s mom, Alvena Harper, and his mom, drew rave reviews from friends and neighbors. He says the scratch-made ketchup is the key ingredient, and the recipe has now spanned several generations.
“My dad’s mom used to come over in the morning and she and my mom would make it. They would start with a bushel of tomatoes from my mom’s dad’s garden and the ketchup would be done by dinnertime,” Meyer says. “They are the best baked beans anywhere and come with great memories of the generations of mothers who cooked them in our family.”
Lisa Lingenfelter, Arlington
Lisa Lingenfelter grew up in a West Texas farming community just steps from her “Grandmama” Nettie Charles’ house, which she would walk to for pink soup served in antique pink bowls.
“As an adult, I realized it was just potato soup with some tomato juice added,” says Lingenfelter, who lives in Arlington. “But as a child I was certain this could not be created outside my Grandmama’s kitchen. It was soup that was pink. What little girl would not love that?”
But pink took on a new meaning when Lingenfelter and her sister Renee Butler were diagnosed with breast cancer.
“It took her life in 2012, but I am a survivor of two years,” Lingenfelter says. “When you are diagnosed with breast cancer, people start giving you pink things. I told everybody at the onset I don’t want a bunch of pink stuff. I don’t need a reminder that I have breast cancer. But one of the foods most comforting to me was something that was pink.
“I think it was comforting because of the nostalgia and memories of my grandmother. It was also something that tasted good at a time when things often tasted metallic and unpleasant. It was a dish that always satisfied, even when my appetite was not normal.”
Lingenfelter still has her grandmother’s pink bowls and handwritten pink soup recipe. She calls them her most treasured possessions. “Pink soup always evokes a sweet memory of my Grandmama in her kitchen.”
Ulana Ludeke Ratley, Bedford
Twice a month on Sundays, Ulana Ludeke Ratley would travel with her parents and siblings in the family station wagon from Burkburnett to her Czech grandparents’ farm near Seymour for dinner and homemade kolache. Ratley says that although most Texans say “kolaches,” kolache is the plural form, too. Her “Mamie,” Eula Kocurek, would serve the sweet pastries with farm-fresh milk for svacina, Czech for “afternoon snack.”
“Eating kolache and listening to Mamie, Mother and my aunts speaking in Czech made the day special,” says Ratley, who lives in Bedford.
Ratley’s mother, Joreen Ludeke, continued the kolache tradition by making batches for Easter church service and, today, in bulk to freeze and enjoy after a quick reheat in the microwave. Ratley now does the same and always uses a variety of fillings, although she admits to stopping in West for them every now and then.
“Yes, I’ll eat other kolache,” she says, “but I always thought my grandmother’s were the best of all.”
Bonnie Frederick, Fort Worth
Sundays meant roast beef for Bonnie Frederick of Fort Worth, who jokes that her stomach has always associated religion with roast. Her 90-year-old mother, Kitty Frederick, would slow-cook a large roast simply seasoned with salt and pepper for Sunday dinners and stretch it for multiple meals during the week.
“Mom always got big pieces of meat, planning for leftovers,” Frederick says. “The next day we might have roast with mushroom gravy, or maybe roast with Mexican seasonings to make tacos. When we got down to where there were only bits and pieces left, she would grind them up and make this salad. She didn’t use a recipe, but I decided we needed to put an amount to things.”
Frederick appreciates her mom’s thriftiness and says she’ll often cook a whole roast with the sole intention of making this flavorful salad.
“You can make it into a sandwich, but I really enjoy stuffing it into a tomato,” she says. “I think it has a really unique flavor and there are a lot of different textures. Plus it’s sentimental. My mom was, and is, a very good cook.”
Becky Peschell, North Richland Hills
Becky Peschell of North Richland Hills remembers sitting around the kitchen table as a child cutting fresh peaches so her mom, Doris Rutland, could use them in her cobblers. Her mom learned how to make juicy cobblers from her grandmother, Bertha Williams, and would freeze extra peach slices so she’d always have some on hand.
“I’ve never eaten her cobbler with canned peaches,” Peschell says, adding that she’s also never tasted a cobbler crust quite like her mom’s. Rolled very thin, it bakes up crispy.
At 86, Rutland still makes her crusts from scratch, although “a little more slowly now, but just as faithfully and tenderly,” Peschell says. “This is hands down one of our favorite recipes that my mom makes. My daughter even had a big pan of it for her wedding reception.
“I feel like the main component is the crust. I know it comes from love because she meticulously rolls the crust super thin and sprinkles it with sugar,” she says. “No store-bought crust can touch her crust.”
Veranika with ham gravy
Judson Harper, Burleson
Judson Harper cherishes his childhood recollections of traveling from Fort Worth to Oklahoma to visit his “Nana,” Amanda Kliever, who lived in a small German community. He especially loved visiting when she made veranika — cheese-filled German dumplings served with diced ham and cream gravy.
“There was always flour going every direction when she was cooking,” the Burleson man says. “When my wife and I made this dish recently, we also had flour going everywhere and it brought back memories.”
When Harper’s grandmother passed away, his mother, Alva Harper, began making the rich and decadent dish, which was his first meal request upon his return from Air Force active duty decades ago. Thanks to inspiration from his mother and grandmother, Harper loves spending time in the kitchen and re-creating the treasured family recipes he grew up with.
“My mom was really serious about me learning how to cook. She said, ‘I’m not going to be here for the rest of your life to cook for you.’ She taught me the basics — how to make biscuits, how to clean and prepare chicken, and how to make bacon and eggs. Just simple stuff, and it did help me when I had my own apartment,” Harper says. “While I may never be as good of a cook as those who preceded me, I still love to cook.”