Fourth of July picnics, backyard barbecues, and family reunions – summer is here! Sharing food with family and friends often evokes memories of Mom’s home cooking. Ask your group to talk about the meaning of the phrase, “Just like Mom used to make!” Our earliest food memories often include watching Mother quietly work her magic in the kitchen or helping Mom add ingredients to a special recipe. Encourage your participants to share their memories of Mom’s kitchen. Ask: What childhood cooking memories do you have? Was your Mom known for her love of “made from scratch” cooking? Did she learn to cook from her mother? What special family recipes did you enjoy as a child? Was the kitchen the heart of your family life?

Your participants will delight in remembering the special tastes and smells from Mom’s kitchen. Talk about Mom’s “comfort food.” Were you served chicken noodle soup when you had a cold? Did you enjoy hearty beef stew on a cold, wintry night? How about a chocolate brownie when you were stressed or tired? Sample some simple comfort foods such as apple pie, rice pudding, macaroni and cheese, or bread with your group. Smells evoke good memories. Recreate the aroma of Mom’s kitchen with some familiar spices and flavorings. Ask your group to identify smells such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla. Make some homemade bread in an electric breadmaker and enjoy the mouth-watering scent fill the air gradually.

Here are more suggestions for reminiscing about Mom’s home-style cooking experiences. Share recollections about the following:

  • Basic domestic skills such as how to cook. Did your family cook on a wood-burning stove, gas stove, or an electric range?
  • Vintage cookbooks of your mother’s generation. From what cookbooks did you, your mother, or grandmother learn to cook? Examples: The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, The Joy of Cooking, The American Woman’s Cook Book, The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, or Betty Crocker’s Picture Cookbook.
  • Your culinary inheritance, including heirloom recipes passed from generation to generation. Example: Grandma’s Prized Coconut Cake. Is there a picture and story associated with the recipe? Did your grandmother have a favorite recipe box?
  • Food and hospitality. Examples: 1930s – Did your mother feed hungry men at the back door during the Great Depression? Did she serve a special dish for her women’s club luncheon or tea?
  • Wartime cooking. Did your mother/grandmother ever serve Depression or War Cake – eggless, sugarless, milkless? What casseroles and stews from icebox leftovers did she serve during World War II? What did you learn about rationing and budget-wise cooking from her?
  • Food or cooking as a ministry – an act of love and service within the community. Examples: preparing a meal for a homeless shelter or for a sick parishioner.
  • Family food traditions, such as Sunday dinner at Grandma’s house, family reunions, or holiday meals with special family recipes. Example: oyster stew for Christmas Eve.
  • Lessons learned by helping in Mom’s kitchen or watching Mom cook. Example: Cooking is an expression of love for your family.
  • Vintage aprons of the 1940s and 1950s, a sentimental favorite among a whole generation of housewives. Did you or your mother have a favorite apron pattern?
  • The ritual of gathering around the dinner table every evening – the rule rather than the exception.
  • Role of men in the kitchen. Is the kitchen a woman’s domain only? When did your father or husband help with the cooking? Examples: outdoor barbecues, camping, or fishing trips.
  • Cooking contests. Did your mother try new recipes often? Did she ever win a prize for her cooking skills? Reminisce about the first Pillsbury Bake-Off competition in 1949 at New York City’s Waldorf-Astoria Hotel. Look at Grand Prize winners in the 1950s. Do any of the recipes sound familiar?
  • Kitchen collectibles. Examples: old-fashioned kitchen scale, cast iron skillet, stove top coffee percolator, breadbox, wooden coffee grinder, apple peeler, Depression glass, glass milk bottles, and more.
  • Table manners. Who taught you proper dining etiquette? Example: how to serve and eat spaghetti.
  • Kitchen humor. Share a funny story about Mom’s attempts to get her children to eat healthy foods. Example: Brussels sprouts


Ice cream is an all-time favorite dessert. In 1984, President Ronald Reagan designated July as National Ice Cream Month. Reminisce with your group about eating ice cream treats on a hot summer day. Relive the days of making homemade ice cream in the 1930s using a hand-cranked ice cream churn and an icebox with rock salt. Or, share memories of a 1940s ice cream parlor, or visiting Dairy Queen for soft ice cream from a drive-in restaurant. Survey your group to find out flavor and topping preferences. Conduct a taste test or two! Have fun with the following ice cream trivia quiz:

  1. What do we call the person who prepares sodas and ice cream at a soda fountain? Soda jerk
  2. What is Neapolitan ice cream? Brick ice cream in layers of different flavors, usually vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry
  3. Pie with ice cream is called what? Pie a la mode
  4. Who is the “Good Humor Man”? The person who sells Good Humor ice cream from carts or trucks that go into people’s neighborhoods
  5. What are the ingredients of homemade ice cream? Eggs, cream, milk, sugar, flavoring
  6. Complete this song title: “I Scream, You Scream, . . .”?  ” . . .We All Scream for Ice Cream”
  7. What is a double dip? Two dips of ice cream per cone or dish
  8. When was the ice cream cone invented? At the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair; a vendor who had run out of dishes rolled up a Persian waffle and filled it with ice cream
  9. Name some packaged ice cream treats. Dixie cups, ice cream bars, ice cream sandwiches, ice cream drumsticks, Klondikes, Dove Bars
  10. A prepared food having the consistency of custard but made from cultured milk and sometimes sweetened, flavored, and frozen is called what? Yogurt


“Laughter is an instant vacation.” ~ Milton Berle

“MOM’S HOME COOKING” written by Sue Hansen. © 2006 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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