One of my oldest and fondest memories was of my mother making peanut brittle. You could always tell as soon as you walked in the door; the sweet smell of boiling sugar would hit you square in the face.
My mother was anything but a gourmet chef, but she could flat make a caramel cake or a coconut cake or a chocolate cake and best of all, her signature peanut brittle.
We had a large bright kitchen with a center counter that could seat eight to ten kids around on bright yellow bar stools. And my mother would be behind the counter, just like in the local diner, making some sweet treat for us all to drool over. She loved to feed people. It was her way of entertaining the masses. If you were eating, you were happy and she wanted to make everybody happy. That was the way I saw it then.
Now, as I have grown older, I see her role as the town food pusher in a totally different light. Our kitchen and her goodies were the honey that drew in every kid within five miles to congregate, regardless of the age differences, the social differences or any other differences. As long as we were all sitting around her table, she could feed us more than sweets.
She would listen to our lives, our joys, our sorrows, our petty jealousies, our conflicts and our feelings. She was always absorbing this smorgasbord of youthful information, storing it away for just the right moment when she would have the opportunity to make each and every child whoever entered our house feel exceptionally special. She always used her ability to listen as a way to let other people know that she was aware of them as unique and special individuals, not just one in a crowd. She never criticized, she never judged and she very seldom gave advice. She always told you how handsome, how beautiful, how smart, how athletic and most of all, how important you were to her.
The cakes and peanut brittle were always good, but what most of my friends remember about my mother has nothing to do with the food.