My mom was a terrible cook. I mean, just awful.

Most of my meal-related memories involve her dashing from the bedroom where she’d got caught up in a book and shrieking in horror at boiled over veggies, burnt potatoes or overdone everything. She’d turn off the stove and turn to us to inquire why on earth we hadn’t noticed the stench, the billowing smoke and alerted her to the onset of yet another culinary disaster.

We were probably watching TV and oblivious.

She was bad at the preparation of meals. But she was simply amazing at the creation of moments.

Valentine’s morning brought balloons and streamers and love notes beside every breakfast plate.

Birthdays were a chance to request your favorite meal.

Sunday lunches usually involved tons of last minute guests, frantic hisses from my mom to, “for goodness sakes eat less or we’re going to run out” and an enveloping sense of warmth and welcome. Watermelons floated in the swimming pool to keep cool and kids were everywhere and everywhere welcome.

Food may not have been her love language, but love sure was.

I think about that every time I use her wooden cutting board.


My dad brought it from Pretoria, South Africa to South Bend, Indiana eleven years ago to give to me the week of my wedding. It was my “something old.” When the board was still brand new she’d put a boiling hot pot directly onto it and burned rings of memory into it. She was very unhappy about it. Very. It pretty much summed up her kitchen skills.

Man, I love that board.

I’m not good in the kitchen either. I wish I was, but I’m not. And every time I get that board out from its nook next to the microwave I smile all the way down to my belly and remember I don’t need to be. To serve up the kind of lovin’ that counts, I don’t need mad cooking skills. I just need what my mom always had more than enough of.

Mad loving-on-people-skills. And everything else is gravy.