top of page

Passing the Mantle

(by Barbara Ballinger)

I was never encouraged to help my mother cook. She seemed to find it easier and more efficient to do everything on her own, even though she had learned from her mother.

Once I had my own kitchen after college, I took matters into my own hands, and chose Julia, Maida, Marcella, Martha, Sheila, and Julee as my muses (aka Child, Heatter, Hazan, Stewart, and the Silver Palate duo of Lukins and Rosso; their acolytes are on a first-name basis). Their writing encouraged me to try my hand at everything from homemade onion soup to zucchini bread, from tiny stuffed cherry tomatoes to flourless chocolate cakes. The dog-eared, food-stained pages of their cookbooks are testimony to my first efforts.

When my two daughters were old enough to help, I invited them to join me and experience together the joy of cooking, eating, and hosting dinner parties. We talked about what worked and why; I taught them how to learn from the unexpected failures and rejoice with the more frequent successes.