The Washington Post

Mother’s Day: Which mothers of the culinary world would you honor?

Florence Lin, a force in Chinese cookery in America. (Grace Young/2009)

Marion Cunningham’s recipes always struck food critic Tom Sietsema, who calls them “grounded in common sense,” while Jane Touzalin calls Madeleine Kamman “the real deal: a French chef.”

Readers came up with their own odes to other notable women during today’s Free Range chat, which you can peruse after the jump.

If I had to add to this list, I think I would add  Madhur Jaffrey . Even to Indians, like me, who grew up at the elbow or their mothers and grandmothers in the kitchen, Indian food is always a bit daunting with it's numerous spices and ingredients. Reading a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook not only breaks everything into manageable pieces, but also comes combined with gorgeous stories about her life and the food that she ate. I sometimes just read the books before I go to bed, not even in the kitchen!


Laurie Colwin . “Home Cooking” and “More Home Cooking.” In the ’90s when I had my first baby, reading Colwin was like having a fun, slightly snarky friend and fellow mom who was teaching her young daughter to be a connoisseur. I was heartbroken when I read that she died and left that young daughter. Her books are about real day-to-day cooking and home life and not so much about following a recipe although she does have some recipes.


Madeleine Kamman and granddaughter, Eva Kamman. (Courtesy of the Kamman family)


Deborah Madison  is a woman who brought vegetarian eating to the masses, instructing us how to prepare the elusive tofu, and teaching us to embrace the beauty of vegetables. As we learned to improve our bodies, our society, and environment by eating less meat, Madison showed us the benefits of supporting our local farmers and that vegetarianism can be synonymous with fine dining.


Who can make carnivores turn their hats in? Vegetable temptress  Mollie Katzen.


Mollie Katzen , Moosewood marvel, never ate a fowl or steer; Chopping veggies, dicing tofu, the first to keep our arteries clear.


Diana Kennedy  showed us the magic of Mexican cooking, start to finish. Thanks to her for many fabulous dishes -- and also  Pati Jinich ! (The rhyme scheme is a bit off, but I hope the sentiment scans!)


To your lists I would add  Carol Field , who made the secrets of Italian food yield.


MFK Fisher . Her food writing remains unparalleled. Lines like "The first thing I remember tasting and then wanting to taste again is the grayish-pink fuzz my grandmother skimmed from a spitting kettle of strawberry jam" are such vivid recollections and so descriptive that they transport you. And she was not a food snob, she just loved good food, whether it was at frou-frou restaurants, at people's homes, or even as simple as scrambled eggs. Her essay on eating alone (A is for Dining Alone) is a masterpiece. (And yes, I know this is more than two sentences.)


The Post's very own  Kim O’Donnel  was almost single-handedly responsible for getting me jazzed about cooking — through her weekly chats & a cooking course I was lucky enough to take, she provided amazing lessons in the skills & techniques that form the backbone for home cooking. Even better, her relaxed attitude toward cooking gave me the confidence to "wing it" and turned this devoted recipe reader into a more improvisational cook. 


Julia  of course for leading the way in the 1960s. And  Lidia Bastianich , my favorite nona of Italian cooking.


Sara Moulton , chef, cookbook author, food editor . . . love her!

Which mothers of culinary invention deserve recognition? Share your picks in the comments below.


Honoring these women of culinary substance and sustenance

View Photo Gallery: Surprise Mom with a plate of fluffy pancakes or homemade fruit parfait this Sunday.

Recipes for Mother’s Day meals:

Diced ShrimpWith Croutons

Stir-Fried Bay Scallops With Pistachios

Savoyard Polenta Pilaf

Pork Tenderloin With Jalapeno Sauce

Miami Beach Sour Cream Cake

Cara Kelly is an Editorial Product Manager for the Emerging News Products team.
Show Comments
Most Read


Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing