Following one of Mom’s recipes is like surfing; only the feel of your feet gets you to shore. Mom was a great surfer, – in the kitchen. And me? Last night I dog paddled as Dad stood over me at the stove reading the list of ingredients that I dutifully added to the pot. He came to the spices. “Marjoram, thyme, salt, pepper.”

“How much?” I asked. Dad looked confused. “Oh, yeah,” I shrugged, “it’s one of Mom’s recipes. There are no proportions,” I told him. So I guessed that a 1/2 teaspoon of both thyme and marjoram would be about right for the 3 lbs of meat I was cooking. “Whoa!” I said after getting a strong whiff of my brew. “The kids aren’t going to like this,” I thought. I should probably have used 1/4 teaspoon. Who knew? Mom hadn’t even specified the amount or type of meat to use. My instructions read, “Add meat to pot.”

So why was I making this mystery dinner? My dad and brother had arrived from out of town to join the kids and me for Christmas. So this week I’ve been making our family’s favorite recipes that Mom used to make. Last night was “Chicken Yum-Yum”, tonight it’s “Beef Bourguignon”. Where Mom got either recipe, I’ve no clue. But these meals are like souvenirs. They bring back memories of years passed that in retrospect now feel safe, secure, warm, and happy, – just the kinds of feelings we all coax alive at the holidays. As our family enjoyed Mom’s cooking, – a la me, – it was easy to imagine her spirit smiling as our little family carried on.

Read on and I’ll give you my mom’s recipe for beef bourguignon; it was a favorite dinner she cooked especially for company. It tastes wonderful, looks elegant, and can be made ahead of time. I even make it in the crock pot. But you probably have your own family-favorite recipes. So perhaps it’s best if you dig out one of those. It’s in sharing traditional holiday meals that we revive our cherished times and weave our generations together. In years to come, perhaps my own children will make beef bourguignon in memory of me, that is of course unless I added too much marjoram and thyme to the pot.

So here’s Mom’s beef bourguignon recipe. I tried to give some of the proportions, but believe me, they’re all relative. Increase or decrease as suits your taste. Prep the dinner the night before, then cook it in the crock pot or oven the next day, and you’ll have a wonderful meal waiting for you when you return home.

Continue reading