This post is part of the Global Mom Relay. Every time you share this blog, $5 will go to women and girls around the world. Scroll to the bottom to find out more.
When it comes to kids and cooking, I learned a lot from my mother. Or should I say, mothers.
I grew up with two spectacular, and spectacularly different, role models: my mother, a fiercely independent single working mom who was a pioneer in her chosen field of biochemistry; and my stepmother, a fiercely independent at-home mom who defied family expectations by moving from Switzerland to the United States to marry my dad. Their paths in life were different, but they had a lot in common besides that fierce independence: They both loved me completely, and they both showed it at the dinner table.
My mother was the queen of working-woman efficiency: Her meals could be fully prepared in the 19 minutes between the screen-door slam that marked her arrival home from work and the moment we sat down to eat. (In the event that they couldn't be, I would start them myself after school, following meticulous typed instructions she'd prepared that morning.) She believed in quick-cooking flank steak, flash-fried broccoli, and cheesy rice-and-beans casseroles that could be made on Sunday and frozen; ever the scientist, she also believed meals always had to have a protein, a starch, a cooked vegetable, and a salad -- a combination I subconsciously model my meals on today. As a kid I took for granted that she'd get dinner on the table for the two of us every night; today, as a working mom myself, I marvel at it.
My stepmother was a different type of cook: Raised in Europe and taught to cook by her own mother and grandmother, she could take a handful of simple ingredients and turn them into something transcendently elegant (four eggs, a pinch of flour, and a hunk of Gruyère became that?). She ground her own nuts to produce the most delicious tart shells you've ever tasted; made poaching salmon look easy; and every Christmas effortlessly generated tin upon tin of incredible Swiss cookies (if you haven't tasted basler lecherli, seriously, you have not lived). When you sit at her table, you feel, plain and simple, loved.
These days it's fashionable in the American press to talk about the "mommy wars" -- those supposedly bitter battles between women who work in the home and women who work outside it. That coverage sets my teeth on edge for so, so many reasons but primarily because it exaggerates women's differences and ignores our huge commonalities. From my own two mothers, I learned that working in an office, a laboratory, or the home has little to do with how good a mother you are -- that comes from the love you share. And yes, putting dinner on the table is a way of expressing that.
I'm not going to brag about my own culinary skills as a mom (though I did once roast a chicken with Martha Stewart -- career high point!). When my own daughter was 15 months old, she ran the length of our apartment holding a takeout menu and screaming "Mommy, Mommy, dinner, dinner!" But getting a reasonable meal (whether cooked by hand, microwaved or -- fine -- dialed for) in front of my kids on a regular basis does make me feel, well, like a mother. I'm lucky enough to be married to a man who does more than half the work of raising our children, but cooking is one thing I still claim as mine. Just like my mothers taught me.
One more note: One fact of being a parent is that you don't cook for only your kids -- you cook for whoever else's happen to be on hand, and expect those parents to do the same for yours. I'm not sure why I love those Group Meal moments so much -- slapping down carrots, spaghetti, chicken legs, in front of six, eight, who knows how many, children -- but I suspect it has something to do with how grounding it is. It reminds me what we're here for, all of us, women and men: to feed the next generation, and get out of their way.
I'm so proud that clicking share on this blog post will donate $5 to The Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, an organization committed to putting 100 million clean cookstoves in homes around the globe by 2020. Billions of women worldwide cook meals for their families on unsafe stoves, and the World Health Organization puts smoke inhalation above malaria or tuberculosis on its list of health threats in developing countries. Those women are taking incredible risks doing for their children exactly what my mothers did for me. Let's help them do it safely, so their daughters -- and, yes, sons -- can do it too.
Now it's on you -- click the Facebook Share icon, the Twitter Tweet icon, and the Google +1 button to get the momentum going or the share graphic below. Tell all your friends, too, and let's raise some serious bucks!
Each time you share this Global Mom Relay piece on Facebook, Twitter, or Email, or donate $5 or more through clicking on the above graphic, a $5 donation (up to $62,500 per week or $125,000 every two weeks) will be donated by Johnson & Johnson and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Join us by sharing it forward and unlock the potential for women and children around the globe. For more information, visit www.unfoundation.org/
This post originally appeared on Glamour.com