In honor of Mother’s Day I wanted to write a bit about my own mother, Barbara. She’s not only a supportive and loving mom, but she’s become quite the cook and has been Ina Garten’s assistant and recipe tester for the last 17 years. Her encouragement and support plays a significant role as Cindy and I continue to move forward with Cassandra’s Kitchen.
Over the years, I’ve gotten TONS of great cooking and baking tips from my mom, but she actually grew up with no cooking background. As a kid she wasn’t invited or ‘allowed’ in the kitchen. She jokes that when she and my dad got married she could only boil water.
As a wife and mother, she wanted to (and needed to) cook for us – one hungry husband and five kids. So, she followed some cookbooks and developed a collection of budget-friendly meals that were her ‘bread and butter.’ We loved them and were fairly happy to eat them on regular rotation.
She was and still is a ‘working mom’ (usually bookkeeping and legal secretary) but she always cooked for us. There were no TV dinners, boxed mashed potatoes, or novelty spaghetti from cans. And we all sat around the table, no TV or distractions. Now that I have my own kids, I realize how important that was.
To this day one of my all-time favorite meals is her Swedish Meatballs. It’s the best comfort food and I’m fairly certain she got the recipe from the Campbell’s Soup Cookbook. I remember that cookbook being her favorite at the time. Fast forward to today, my kids ask, ‘Can you make what Grammy makes?’ We all love that dish.
In 1999 she started working for Ina and it changed her life. At some point, everyone in my family has worked for Ina directly or at Barefoot Contessa in East Hampton (my dad was the first of the Libath's to work for Ina). And for mom, she took her background of budget-friendly dinners and began to learn tips, tools, recipes, and ideas from a gourmet cook. It was the perfect match and it's been awesome to see how the love she cultivated for cooking blossomed as she and Ina worked side-by-side.
photo credit: Mallory Samson
Now, 17 years later my mother is still working with Ina, cooking up a storm, spending some time relaxing in Florida, and enjoying her role as a mom and grandmom. For every big holiday get-together she is by my side. I live somewhere in-between my four siblings so I regularly host the holiday meals. Thanks to my mom the meal always includes everyone's favorite traditional sides and dishes, with something new and delicious of Ina’s thrown in. There’s literally no way I could do it without her and I’m sure everyone is happy (and relieved) that my mom is there to help!
I am so grateful for the sacrifices that she has made for our family (which I could go on and on about) and extremely fortunate that she continues to share her experiences and love of food and cooking with me!
Love, Cassandra (aka Babe)