I firmly believe the kitchen can be a holy place. It is where we, as mothers (and some fathers), spend a great majority of our time preparing meals, baking goodies, doing dishes, and most importantly of all, enjoying the company of our family as we gather to cook and eat together. If you think about all the traditions your family has, all the good memories, most of them probably include food. We’ve heard the saying, “What your children really want for dinner is you.” It’s not so much the food but the time spent with one another that makes the kitchen such a sacred space.
Studies continually show children fair better emotionally and mentally when the family eats meals together. The sharing of the day’s events and the family stories that are told build a camaraderie that binds a family together. In speaking of this very thing Ann Romney, wife of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, shared:
“As Mitt and I raised our children, I wanted our home and kitchen to be just as warm and comforting for our boys as the one I remembered. Through the years I made sure there was always a good reason for my boys to be gathered around the kitchen counter. Yes, cookies and treats were a regular, but the main draw was just being together, talking, listening, laughing, consoling—whatever the day brought.That doesn’t mean it was all fun. Cooking every single day for five sons and a husband for 28 years—28 years!—was, well, work. But for me it was a labor of love and a way to help my family stay healthy, happy, and strong. I was convinced that, as one wise man taught, “No success can compensate for failure in the home.” And so I cooked—a lot.”
The Romney Family Table by Ann Romney is a delight! More than just a cookbook, the stories she shares of her own family both growing up and as a mother draw you in, make you laugh, and give you a feeling of kinship from one mother to another. I so enjoyed reading of her experiences as a young mom.
A light bulb went on when I read that Ann would dress her boys in their church clothes on Saturday night so it was one less thing she had to do Sunday morning. Sure, their clothes were wrinkled but they were dressed! What a great idea! She took the same approach for Sunday dinner by preparing most of it on Saturday.
Like every mother, Ann found something she could do everyday that was just for her to recharge. For me it is usually sewing, blogging, or playing the piano – for Ann it was playing tennis. One day she had a tournament to attend but couldn’t find a babysitter so she put her 13 and 11 year old sons in charge. Guess what she found when she got home?
“The Fluff on Craig’s face didn’t cause me to ban the gooey stuff from the house. Nor did the fact that it has zero nutritional value. Mayor Bloomberg probably has Fluff high on his list of substances to be banned in New York City – which for me, would be an added incentive to keep it around.”
Ha! I love Ann’s spunk and sense of humor. For those, like my poor husband, who didn’t grow up in the east and have never heard of a Fluffernutter Sandwich here is Ann’s simple recipe.
The Fluffernutter Sandwich
2 slices soft, white bread
Spread the peanut butter and Fluff most liberally on the bread. By the way, if you toast the bread before you make the sandwich, it can melt the peanut butter scrumptiously.
Ann Romney shares traditions their family has for Christmas, 4th of July, Thanksgiving and other holidays. She is open with the struggles she had as a mother.
“As a young full-time mom, there were moments when I was at my wits’ end. More than once, I slammed the door, got in the car, and drove away, telling the boys I wasn’t coming back. Then I’d drive a block, park in a spot where I could still see the house, cry some, and recharge. It wasn’t exactly the way I had envisioned motherhood.”
But Ann also shares the joy and happiness and humorous parts of motherhood and family life as well. And she talks about the support she received from her husband.
“Mitt was often away – his work generally took him out on the road two or three nights a week. I remember some of his calls: He could hear the boys fighting in the background, and he could hear the weariness in my voice. More than once, he said: “Ann, what you are doing is more important than what I am doing. You’re raising the kids who will be part of our lives forever; I’m just trying to earn the money to pay the bills.”
“It was nice to be reminded of the importance of my job, but it didn’t take away the exhaustion, the weariness.”
I love that these stories and family pictures are interspersed with the recipes. The recipes Ann shares are good old American fare from seafood to salads, side dishes to desserts. And, yes, plenty of new chocolate recipes to try like Chocolate Macadamia Nut Torte, Chocolate Bread Pudding, and Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake! Since it is fall and I adore all things pumpkin we baked the Ann’s pumpkin bread (with chocolate chips of course).
3 cups flour
2 cups sugar
3 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
2 cups canned pumpkin
4 beaten eggs
1 cup pecan pieces
1 (6 oz) package semisweet chocolate chips (we used more – 2 cups) optional
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 9×5-inch loaf pans. Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add vegetable oil, pumpkin, and eggs to flour mixture. Stir until moistened. Stir in pecan pieces and chocolate chips. Divide batter equally into prepared loaf pans. Bake 1 hour, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans, then remove to wire racks.
If you are looking for a new cookbook, or even a great gift (Christmas is coming!) I highly recommend getting your own copy of The Romney Family Table.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Romney Family Table to review from Deseret Book. All opinions are my own.