a good mom and a good fixer

My mother was known by my friends as one of the best cooks in our neighborhood. It wasn’t that she excelled in haute cuisine, indeed she overcooked vegetables and knew nothing of pasta al dente, but she warmed the hearts and stomachs of many. My brothers and I would say to her after meals as we were clearing the table, "you're a good mom and a good fixer."

Just the other day I was telling my nephews about her homemade cake donuts, crispy deep-fried then coated in powdered sugar, and about her battered chicken drumsticks. I remember devouring hot polish sausage with russet potatoes, sweet onions and mozzarella baked and bubbling in an oblong glass pan. On the rare occasion Mom broiled a steak. We consumed plenty of casseroles and baked fish of all kinds. She topped salmon with a creamy egg sauce and threw together a pretty mean spaghetti with whole olives and ground pork, served with a plank of buttery garlic bread broiled open-faced. On camping trips Mom breaded and pan-fried the razor clams we harvested and served us mountains of potato salad chalk full of olives, green onions, hard boiled eggs, a ton of mayonnaise and a bit of mustard and pickled relish.

My mom’s breakfasts were my favorite, eggy and rich, sweet and savory. On her broad skillet she flipped all types of pancakes: buckwheat, thin Swedish, dollar-sized, buttermilk, and sourdough. Her oven bore moist German pancakes, bubbly golden Dutch Babies and brown sugar strudel coffee cake. Moist blueberry muffins were my friend Lori's favorite, which we traded her for rides to swim practice, and Mom fried up banana fritters on occasion, too. Almost every weekend breakfast boasted a broiler pan full of juicy sausage links or crispy bacon and a bowl of dad’s homemade cinnamon applesauce. Eggs were our friends—scrambled, fried or soft boiled.

My dad had a sweet tooth that he passed down to most of us so Mom always had at least one dessert going—sometimes two or three: blackberry cobbler, angel food, red velvet and German chocolate cakes, Boston cream pie—my brother Alan's favorite—tollhouse, snickerdoodle and peanut butter cookies, apple, berry, peach and cherry pies, all sporting huge scoops of vanilla ice cream on the side.

In stark contrast, for the past four years, my boy Calvin has remained on a rigid diet which required me to weigh every morsel of a narrow range of mostly fatty foods to the tenth of a gram—equal to about one drop of olive oil. This high-fat diet (with almost no carbs and zero sugar, so not as delicious as it sounds) was aimed at stopping, or curbing, his seizures, but it never made a dent, only turned him into a zombie and stunted his growth, though I've known some kids whose seizures stopped all together because of the diet. So recently we have abandoned the diet. I cannot describe how liberating and fun it is to reintroduce old and new foods to him, albeit cautiously. Perhaps one day Calvin can know the pleasure of a fresh donut or perhaps a spoonful of chocolate chip cookie dough melting warmly in his mouth. It might sound ridiculous, but sharing with Calvin the delights of food would make me very, very happy, like—no doubt—it did for my mom.

Harriette May Shake


  1. Grandma Pipes? :)

    I think Calvin might enjoy a specialty from the West Coast. The Bacon Maple Bar, when fresh, is quite delightful.

  2. Can you guess in 3 hints?

    55 SHS Phantom Lake LG

  3. OK, a fw mr kluz
    Totally Gay, dated yr sis*

    *I am pretty sure that doesn't narrow down the list vry mch!

  4. Yr bro dated your sis? :)
    Thats how Bellevue Shakes roll...

    Greetings from


  5. dude, you are cracking me up!!! i've been looking for evidence of you on facebook and in my email archives for the past 30 minutes to no avail. can you give me your contact info? you are too funny! email me at christy.shake@gmail.com
    hope UR good. xoxo