I went to write my monthly post earlier this month but I was a bit stymied as to what to write about. I thought about tying into May Day or Cinco de Mayo but I got too busy with other things so I put it off. I'm glad I did.
It's Mother's Day and my Mom has been gone for over 20 years now. She was an amazing mother and an even more amazing person. She found something special about everything she did and more importantly, in everyone she met. She reveled in the simple things and marveled at the complex. Her infectious smile alone would light up a room and those around her.
She left this world much too early but she put more into her short lifetime than anyone I've ever known. It wasn't about the quantity of time she had but the quality of years, months, days and minutes she lived. Every moment was rich with care. Care for her children, husband, sisters, brothers, friends and even people she didn't know. She cared about the task and the effort. Found that one thing that made everyoneone uniquely special and every task uniquely important. Growing up, we didn't "have" to do our homework or our chores, we "got" to do it.
My mother didn't think of herself as much of a cook. She basically had a repertoire of 8 or nine meals and rotated them based on the day and budget. For the most part, there wasn't much culinary experimentation in our house and the rule was simple, eat what's in front of you or go to bed hungry. There were always starving children somewhere in the who that would love to eat it what we didn't like. Thankfully,, we all basically ate everything as I'm not sure what my Mom would have done if we ever said "great, wrap it up and ship it to them".
When I was in my teems, Mom came across a simple recipe for corn chowder. For a kid who could basically eat cream corn out of the can, this was Nirvana. Corn, bacon, onions, potatoes - nothing overtly special. Many of us who cook like to say the secret ingredient is love. I didn't really think about that until now but I really do think that was true of Mom's cooking. It wasn't spectacular by any culinary definition but it was by mine. Along with the chowder, she made these muffins she called "graham gems". She never made the chowder or the gems often enough.
So is this the tie to this month's Chowdafest blog, my mother's chowder? Was it because Chowdafest is the mother of all chowder competitions? Nope! It's because I can never thank my Mom enough for what she did and what she inspired and aspired in the person I am today. No doubt my Mom would have thoroughly enjoyed Chowdafest. Sure, she would have been impressed by how it's grown over the years, the amount of smiling people who come every year and the amazing chowders, soups and bisque it showcases. But she would have reveled in all those who volunteer, my friends who always come and pitch in, the people behind the restaurants and sponsors who all participate and the hundreds of thousands of meals generated for the hungry.
The point is that Chowdafest is special. There's a zest and appreciation for everything that goes into it and for everyone who supports it. It reflects how my Mom was and brought her kids up. I don't take any of it for granted as like my Mom, you never know when it might go away. So, if you're Mom is around, don't treat today or any day like its just a Hallmark holiday. Tell her you love and appreciate her - maybe more in deed than in words (but every parent loves to hear this too). If she's no longer around, put the care into whatever you do and everyone you meet because somewhere she knows. Remember, "you don't have to, you get to".
Jim Keenan: Creator and Chief Chowda-head.