When a Mom’s Love Looks Like Meatballs and Biscotti

A few weeks after I officially graduated from college, I had major surgery to remove a grapefruit-sized cyst on my ovary (and, it turned out, repair other damage from the severe endometriosis I didn’t know I had).

I had completed my coursework a semester early and was back living with my parents because my first “real” job didn’t pay much. This arrangement, while maybe not what I had hoped for, turned out to be providential because I was able to recover at home with plenty of TLC from my mom.

One of my fondest memories from this period in my life is sitting on a comfy chair in the family room, eating my mom’s Italian meatballs while an NBA playoff game aired on the TV in the background. (I had zero interest in professional basketball; I suppose I remember that detail because this scene is captured so beautifully in my mind.)

My mom is famous for her homemade pasta sauce. Over the years she taught many, if not all, her seven children how to make it, and she served it countless times when company came over after church on Sunday.

And the only thing that is better than her sauce is her sauce with meatballs.

I can almost taste them now, exactly as they were when I was eating them so long ago. I was somewhat frail and quite underweight back then, and the meatballs—infused with the perfect blend of fennel seed, garlic salt and breadcrumbs—were just what the doctor ordered to help me recover after my surgery.

It makes me hungry and cheers my heart just to think about them—especially this week.

It doesn’t happen in the life of every mother, but sometimes, after many years of raising children and running a household, the caretaker becomes the one receiving the care.

This has happened in my family over the last year, which is making this Mother’s Day particularly poignant.

There are many thoughts I could have about my mom and what’s going on during this season of her life. Right now, though, I’m trying to focus less on processing and more on being present. And for me, being present—for my parents and my own family—seems to have a lot to do with food.

My mom taught me how to make her meatballs when I was much younger, and this little culinary project still evokes feelings of love and home. Just a few weeks ago, in fact—when the stresses of life were swirling at an ever-quickening pace—the smell of pasta sauce with meatballs filled our house with warmth and comfort.

But it’s not just the meatballs that remind me of my mom.

Late last year, I felt the urgent need to learn how to make her Italian biscotti—another favorite staple from my childhood that I had always considered too difficult to try myself.

I tracked down her original recipe (she didn’t have it anymore but my sister did), bought the all-important anise flavoring and set up a little baking station in my parents’ kitchen. Step by step, my mom helped me through the recipe.

She mixed the dry and wet ingredients in the big green Tupperware bowl. She instructed me how to turn it out on the counter and knead it the rest of the way. She showed me how to fashion the dough into loaves, using her hand to make a series of indentations along the top of each one.

I had never done anything like this before, and it was kind of a sticky mess for a time. But although my first batches of biscotti weren’t perfect, they were good enough. And even better was the experience.

While we learn many things from our parents when we’re young, I don’t know how often an 84-year-old mother gets to teach her 46-year-old daughter how to do a new task from start to finish. It wasn’t just about making an heirloom recipe, either—at least not for me.

In teaching me to make biscotti, my mom was empowering me to try other things I’ve never done before. Successfully handling a big bowl of sticky biscotti dough gave me the confidence I needed to make homemade bread for the first time ever—something I had always wanted to do but had been afraid to try.

That led to the realization that yes, I actually do have what it takes to teach my 15-year-old daughter how to drive. And yes, I actually can sit by myself in a hospital waiting room while my husband has a scary sounding procedure on his heart.

I don’t know how to explain it any better than this. Somehow, it all began with the biscotti.

My mom doesn’t do much of what she used to do. But in her own quiet way, she’s helping me to be brave.

And what daughter doesn’t need her mother to do that?

P.S. I’m linking up this week with Purposeful Faith, #TellHisStory, Coffee for Your Heart, Chasing Community, #HeartEncourgementThursday and Grace & Truth.



34 Responses to When a Mom’s Love Looks Like Meatballs and Biscotti

  1. Aimee Imbeau says:

    Thank you for sharing this, Lois. The relationship you have with your mom is beautiful. Thanks for linking up on Grace and Truth. Praying your hubby heals and recovers quickly…and you have many more special moments with your mom.

  2. Julie says:

    What great memories and love your mom gave you! That’s wonderful how you can carry on her traditions now with cooking, serving and loving others like she did!
    Visiting from #Grace&Truth

  3. Anita Ojeda says:

    What beautiful memories and legacies your mom has left you. You are fortunate that she instilled you with bravery to try the difficult things–no matter how old you are!

  4. What an amazing tribute to your mom. My mom isn’t much of a baker, but my grandma was and some of my fondest memories are of her making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for me. Though she is in heaven, I still have her recipe, written in her handwriting that I use. It always stirs up the sweetest memories of our time together. I think I need to make cookies now!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Oooo … you’re making me hungry, Tiffany! Thanks for your kind words. I love the story of your grandma’s cookies (and the fact that you have her recipe in her handwriting). Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

  5. I can smell the meatballs from here! Yum! 🙂 that is awesome that you are still learning from your Mom.

  6. KellyRBaker says:

    So sweet, Lois! Your mother is still impacting your life. I love that. I sincerely hope I will be able to do so with my kids, too.

  7. Lois,
    I enjoyed the memories of your mother’s cooking and was cheering you on as you made one of her recipes! There is such comfort in aromas and good food and good family memories and I think at times, those help us heal the most — both physically and emotionally. You’ve drawn such rich insight from these recent experiences in your life and I love how even as you’re figuring them out, you’re sharing them with us. xo

    • Lois Flowers says:

      This is kind of a new chapter in my writing, Valerie … to be so “current” with what’s going on in my life. 🙂 I sometimes wonder if I need to let these things simmer longer, but then I get that feeling that says, “Just go with it… maybe it’s not just for you after all.” I totally agree about the comfort found in food and aromas … right now, there’s freshly picked peony in my kitchen and it smells heavenly! Hugs, friend!

  8. Lisa notes says:

    Oh, this makes me miss my mom. 🙁 She’s been gone since 2010, but started leaving prior to that. She had Alzheimer’s. I’m grateful that I have wonderful memories of her through the years though. She wasn’t very good at bringing us into the kitchen to cook with her, but she was excellent at calling us to the table to eat. 🙂

    • Lois Flowers says:

      “Excellent at calling us to the table to eat.” I love that, Lisa. I’m sorry for the loss of your mom … so hard. It’s comforting to know others have been down the road that we are on. I’m wondering … have you written much about your mom’s experience with Alzheimer’s (or yours, as her daughter)?

  9. Linda Stoll says:

    yes, yes, I hear you, Lois. my 87 year old mom continually models for me what brave, courageous, joyful, positive, godly looks like.

    *

    how is your husband doing after that visit to the hospital? God keeps you guys on my heart …

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for Randy, Linda. He is doing much better in important ways, but still having some issues at night. He’s going to see the doctor next week so hopefully he’ll get some answers. Happy Mother’s Day, my friend!

  10. sandy says:

    Aw I love this so much. I live in a different country from my mom now and don’t get to see her more than once every couple of years. But every time I pull out my sewing machine I think of her and all she’s taught me. It makes me want to teach my kids anything I can.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      My mom used to sew too, Sandy. I never took the time to learn that skill from her, though now I wish I had! What a gift for you to have had that opportunity. And yes, I know what you mean about wanting to teach your kids everything you can … I feel the same way! Happy Mother’s Day to you!

  11. Leslie says:

    That’s sweet, Lois. Mom food brings such fond memories, but the things they do to teach and help us last a lifetime. I loved your story!

  12. Trudy says:

    This is beautiful, Lois. I am so grateful that you can think on these precious memories with your mom. I’m sure it’s so difficult to know what she is now struggling with. She is blessed to have a daughter like you. You are more brave than you realize. ❤️ Love and hugs to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Trudy, thank you so much for these affirming words. I don’t often feel very brave, but actions can speak louder than feelings, right? Hugs and love right back!

  13. Lois, this is absolutely precious. Funny how little things become so poignant for us when the ones we love are gone or at risk. I love the way your mum’s biscotti became a path to brave for you!

  14. Lesley says:

    This is beautiful, Lois! I love that your mom is still teaching you things as well as encouraging you to be brave and that you can do these new things.

  15. Awww, Lois. Your post made me tear up a bit. Those times with your mom are GIFTS. Of course, I suspect you already know that. I love how her teaching you the things she knows so well are empowering you to be the mom you need to be. Yes, you CAN teach your daughter to drive. You CAN be the wife your husband needs in every circumstance that comes up in this life.

    Thank you for sharing this post. You’ve got me thinking about what I love about my mom.

  16. Just so precious, Lois. Thank you.

  17. Love this. Such a heartfelt story. Thanks for the reminder and encouragement for us to appreciate the little things with our mothers!

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