A tribute to mom

Spinach, my mother’s way. (Provided photo — Yvona Fast)

Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Did you cook a delicious meal for mom or take her out to a favorite restaurant? What is mom’s favorite meal?

When I moved out of the dorm into an apartment, I would often call home, asking how mom made something-or-other, and serve it to my housemates.

Our tastes develop in our youth, but they change as we age. My family is of Polish-Jewish heritage. Mom used to make her own pierogi and golombki (stuffed cabbage rolls). We had kotlety instead of hamburgers, which she described as tough and tasteless. She made cutlets from cauliflower. She made lots of soups, all following the same formula. She loves matzo brei (fried matza), although we break tradition and fry it on bacon. She made Polish Babka and Szarlotka.

Being Polish we ate a lot of potatoes — my task as a child was to peel potatoes for dinner before my parents came home from work. Mom also made latkes, gnocchi and other potato dishes. Her favorite casserole was potatoes layered with greens and cheese. Potato crust for quiche and other savory pies replaced pastry in our house.

When we came to America in the 1960s, she fell in love with corn on the cob, pizza, fruit pies, crisps and cobblers. But she also scorned many American foods — like hot dogs, hamburgers, limp and tasteless vegetables and over-sweetened desserts. She resisted using prepared stuff like instant mashed potatoes, canned soups and packaged broth. Working as a scientist in a lab, Mom always read the ingredients and taught me to do the same.

Mom loved fresh veggies. She tells us how she saw spinach on the cafeteria menu where she worked and ordered it. It was plain, steamed, overcooked and tasteless. When Mom makes spinach, it is well-seasoned — no one I know makes spinach mother’s way. She learned it from her mom or her nanny before the war.

For more than 40 years, Mom had a large vegetable and flower garden. The short gardening season in these mountains proved challenging, so she started her seeds indoors in February. She searched garden catalogs for fast-ripening, short-season varieties of tomatoes. In addition to the vegetables she was familiar with from her youth (like cabbage, cauliflower, celeriac, kohlrabi and string beans), she learned to grow and love new things that were not known in 1950s Poland, like arugula, Swiss chard, sugar snap peas, eggplant, zucchini and broccoli. She froze the harvest and we ate our garden vegetables through the long Adirondack winters.

What is the food heritage mom passed on to you? Do you make those same special dishes for your family?

My Mother’s Spinach


1 pound fresh spinach

1 Tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1/4 cup milk (I use 2%)

2 Tablespoons bread crumbs

1 Tablespoon grated cheese (optional)


Wash spinach; place in a saucepan with the water clinging to the leaves and cook just until wilted; you may need to add a couple tablespoons of water if not enough is left on the leaves.

Drain off excess water; when cool enough to handle, place on cutting board and chop coarsely. In the same saucepan, melt the butter; add the spinach. Beat egg with milk and salt. Stir into the spinach; cook over low heat, stirring until egg has set, only a minute or two. Stir in bread crumbs and optional cheese, if using. Serve as a side dish with chicken, pork, fish or beef.

Serves 2 to 4.



1 onion

1/2 pound ground beef

1/2 pound ground pork

1 egg

1 clove garlic

Salt, pepper

Fresh minced parsley

Italian-flavored bread crumbs

Oil for frying


Cook onion in a little oil in skillet about 5-10 minutes, until translucent.

In large mixing bowl, combine ground meat, beaten egg, sauteed onion, garlic, parsley, salt, pepper and a couple tablespoons of the bread crumbs.

Place additional bread crumbs on a plate. Make patties with the mixture; dip both sides in bread crumbs to coat. Fry in hot oil until cooked through in the middle.

Serve with potatoes, a cooked vegetable (like green beans or carrots) and a tossed salad.

Serves 4 to 6.

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Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: Writing and cooking. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at yvonawrite@yahoo.com or on X: @yvonawrites.


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