There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
In Round One of this Mother’s Day exercise, Y&H focused mostly on chefs. This time around, two restaurateurs and a food writer discuss the influence their mums had on their career choice. Or didn’t.
I didn’t learn to cook from my mom who had 3 kids at 28 in 1971 and who was mesmerized by the marvels of instant mashed potatoes and Steak-umms. PopTarts for breakfast, anyone?
That said, Mom taught me how to color outside the lines and appreciate color, texture, and how not to make a pot of coffee.
My mother was one of 8 girls, poor, Italian, and raised near Lincoln Park in DC. She was a great cook. Above all she taught me to be picky about ingredients, to cook simply and boldly, and to never under season. I grew up in Wheaton and remember her weekly ritual of stopping by Marchone’s to pick up freshly grated Romano cheese, homemade sausages, etc. Her repertoire also included DC “country” cooking, which I relished. Outside of the occasional trip to Parkway Deli for lox, eggs and onions (I’m Jewish, too), our family Sunday breakfast was the same every week: fried green tomatoes, eggs basted in bacon fat over onions sauteed in bacon fat, hash browns, bacon, sausage patties, and a stack of Wonder bread toasted and buttered about 12 slices high on a plate.
One last anecdote that has served me throughout my lifetime. She confessed to me once that she learned how to modify many of her best recipes to be cooked in no more than 30 minutes so that when my dad came home from work he would think she had slaved over the stove all day when in fact she’d been at the golf course.
Matt Ashburn, co-owner of Capital City Diner:
Some of my fondest memories are of large family meals in southern Virginia, where everyone got together for the holidays to socialize, reflect, and enjoy each other’s company over a plate of comfort food. Mom and grandma both cook honest-to-goodness southern dishes, usually from scratch (especially grandma), and we try to feature some of those styles at Capital City Diner. From homemade meatloaf to grilled pork chops to Dixie-style slaw dogs to seasoned collard greens, we take great effort to prepare good home-cooked meals…Just like mom (and grandma) would.
A good number of our recipes are, in fact, family recipes that we have adapted for the restaurant. The best example is Pat’s mom’s meatloaf, which has become the most popular dinner platter we serve.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery