Family cooking on Mother's Day

There's more to the holiday than breakfast in bed, for moms and for those who love them


Associated Press

Associated Press photo

Andrew O'Sullivan sprinkles pepper on the bacon as he prepares a pancake breakfast using new-laid eggs for his mother chef Claire Archibald, at their farmhouse home in the Chehalem Valley, near Portland, Ore

PORTLAND, Ore. — Come Mother’s Day, 17-year-old Andrew O’Sullivan wakes up, goes outside to gather pastel-colored eggs from chickens at the family’s Chehalem Valley farmhouse, and then heads for the kitchen.

He cracks some eggs into his homemade pancake batter, slips others into simmering water to poach, and lays slabs of bacon in a pan to sizzle on the stove.

Like countless youngsters across the country, Andrew performs the ritual of cooking breakfast for mom on her special day. But for Andrew and other children whose moms are professional chefs or restaurateurs, May 11 is a day to reverse roles in the kitchen and celebrate family cooking.

“He likes to get up and go into the kitchen and turn on the music and [cook] on his own,” says Andrew’s mom, Claire Archibald. An award-winning chef who owns Cafe Azul in Portland with her sister Shawna, Archibald looks forward to her family’s annual late-morning American meal.

“To have something that is kind of traditional, to me that’s comforting and a nice way to start the day,” says the chef, who specializes in creating regional, traditional Mexican cuisine.

Andrew admits that cooking for a chef can be “a little intimidating because you’re measuring yourself up against them.”

He says that as a youngster he wanted to impress his mom but soon realized that just “taking the time and effort to cook impressed her more than if I were trying to create some really fancy dish.”

He adds: “As I grew older, I realized it really didn’t matter much what I was cooking. What matters is that I am wanting to cook for her, to make that day easier for her, to make that day more pleasant.”

These days, Andrew enjoys squeezing in more kitchen time with his mom, a two-time nominee for the James Beard award for best chef in the Northwest. “She’s taking me under her wing,” he explains, given his interest in learning to cook before heading off to college.

Unlike Andrew, the youngsters in chef Jody Adams’ house in Somerville, Mass., don’t often do the same thing every year.

“They’ll surprise me,” says Adams, chef-partner of two Boston restaurants, Rialto and blu, and 1997 winner of the Beard award for best chef in the Northeast.

Her two children, 13-year-old Oliver and 7-year-old Roxanne, are no strangers to the kitchen. Oliver makes the school lunches and Roxanne helps out with kitchen tasks such as peeling and cutting vegetables. She also likes to cook with Adams’ husband, writer Ken Rivard and co-author of Adams’ first book, In the Hands of A Chef (William Morrow, 2002).

“I cook with my kids if they’re interested. I don’t want to impose that world on them if they’re not interested,” says Adams.

The celebration varies, depending on Adams’ work. Years ago, she worked Mother’s Day brunch with her baby on her hip. Last year, the kids surprised her with breakfast in bed.

“I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed,” remembers Adams. “They made really weird scrambled eggs and it came up with a bottle of ketchup, a bowl of cereal and a glass of milk.”

A surprise meal is also in the making for Bev Shaffer, only her son is 25 years old. Shaffer is the cooking-school director and cooking teacher at Mustard Seed Market and Cafe in Akron and in Solon, Ohio. Her son, Ray, lives next door to his parents in Seville, Ohio, and enjoys cooking for them several times a month.

“It’s a great way for me to spend time with her,” says the younger Shaffer. “It’s something we both enjoy doing.”

“I grew up in an ethnic family and cooked with my mom all the time,” Ray’s mom says. “I think Ray wants the same thing passed down to him.”

Associated Press photo

Childhood allergies prevented Ray from eating packaged foods so he and his mom baked, cooked and made jams together. “She started teaching me how to cook because she knew I would have to be able to cook in order to survive,” Ray says. “I ended up outgrowing my allergies but I still have that love of cooking.”

Ray specializes in Asian and Italian food and enjoys making his own version of pasta sauce with port wine.

The Shaffer family, like many, agree that cooking together and sharing good food is an important part of everyday life and not only for special occasions.

“There’s an incredible amount of communication that happens around food,” says Deann Bayless, the immediate past president of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. “It’s the thing that sparks communication. When you’re cooking with them, kids can open up more because you’re not sitting across from them, staring them in the eye.”

Bayless co-owns the celebrated Chicago restaurants Frontera Grill and Topolobampo with her husband, award-winning chef, television personality and cookbook author Rick Bayless.

They try to cook a meal together with their 12-year-old daughter Lanie once a week. “The sharing of food is the most wonderful thing there is and to make it [for and with someone else] is a wonderful thing,” says the mom.

Sharing breakfast before a busy day is another ritual in the Bayless household. So it’s not surprising that when it comes to Mother’s Day, the first meal of the day is the one Lanie likes to make for her mom. Typically, it’s a Dutch Baby, a skillet-sized oven pancake that rises and falls like a popover. Lanie fills the sunken center with fresh fruit and syrup and a sprinkling of powdered sugar.

No matter what rituals families have on Mother’s Day, most moms would agree with chef Adams when she says: “I’ve never felt that Mother’s Day is about pampering Mom. It’s about the celebration of my children. I feel really blessed and honored to be a mother.”


Port is the secret ingredient Ray Shaffer adds for sweetness to his basic tomato sauce with mushrooms and olives.

Sweet Sicilian Sauce for Pasta

(Recipe by Ray Shaffer)

Extra-virgin olive oil

6 cloves garlic, chopped

2 medium yellow onions, diced

2 cups ruby port wine

12 Roma tomatoes, cubed

6-ounce can tomato paste

6-ounce can medium black pitted olives

1 tablespoon dried oregano

12 to 16 brown Italian (cremini) mushrooms, sliced

Coat the bottom of a large skillet with oil. Saute garlic and onions until onions are transparent. Add port and simmer until port is consistency of a thick syrup (to cook off most of the alcohol), about 10 to 12 minutes.

Add tomatoes, tomato paste and juice from can of olives. Cook over medium-high heat until tomatoes become part of sauce, stirring often; this should take about 20 to 30 minutes. Add oregano, olives and mushrooms. Simmer until mushrooms have cooked through and become tender, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve over cappellini pasta.

Makes 4 servings.

Bob’s Dutch Baby is named for a friend of the Bayless family. It comes out looking like a bowl, Lanie points out.

Her father adds, “If you’ve ever had a great big puffy skillet full of apple oven pancake, this is similar. It’s just that apples aren’t baked into it, so the whole thing comes out crisper and, as Lanie says, it does make an edible bowl to put fresh fruit in.”

Even after years of eating Dutch Baby, Bayless says, “I still think it’s pretty cool to watch how the sides rise up the edge of the pan. We make it mostly when we’ve got people visiting because it’s impressive looking.”

This is more-or-less the same batter you make popovers out of, Bayless says.

“About fruit, I suggest you change with the seasons: use strawberries (top green leaves removed) in early spring; blackberries and raspberries in early summer (not need to cut them up); peaches and nectarines (peeled and pitted) in mid summer (whole blueberries, too); and apples and pears (seedy core cut out and peeled, if you wish) in fall and winter.

“Citrus fruit like oranges and grapefruit are really too juicy to use here. For a really over-the-top experience, dollop some lightly sweetened whipped cream or creme fraiche (or even not-so-over-the-top yogurt) over the fruit before sprinkling with sugar.”

Bob’s Dutch Baby

(Recipe by Rick and Lanie Bayless)

5 tablespoons (2 1/2 ounces) butter

3 eggs

3/4 cup milk (goat or soy milk also work fine)

3/4 cup flour (instructions for measuring follow)

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 cups diced fruit ( 1/2-inch pieces)

A little powdered sugar

Syrup, as needed

Prepare first:

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Stir flour in its bag or canister. Scoop in 1/4-cup measure. Use back of knife to level off excess, then dump into bowl. Repeat twice more.

Heat syrup in small saucepan over low heat or in microwave at 50 percent power for 1 minute.

Now cook:

Melt butter: Put butter in very large (12-inch) skillet. Set in oven for 5 minutes to melt butter. Make sure handle of skillet won’t melt in oven. Leave until butter melts completely; it’s OK if it begins to brown.

Make batter: While butter melts, break eggs into large bowl with flour, add milk and salt and beat until smooth. (If you don’t have a whisk, use a rotary beater, hand-held electric mixer or even a large spoon.)

Bake: Remove skillet from oven. Pour batter in hot pan. Return to oven and bake 15 to 20 minutes, until puffed up the sides and dark golden-brown.

Serve: Remove from oven and slide onto serving plate. Pile fruit in center. Sprinkle with powdered sugar. Cut into wedges. Pass syrup to pour on. Powdered sugar looks prettiest if you put a spoonful in a little strainer and shake it on top, Lanie says.

Makes 4 or 5 servings.

(Recipe by Rick and Lanie Bayless)

• Joan Cirillo is a Portland, Ore., writer. Her two teenage daughters like to bring her breakfast in bed on Mother’s Day.


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