25 years ago this week, my mom died from Hodgkins’ Lymphoma. I was nine years old, but with my sister’s birth 2 years earlier and between the wonder of a new baby and mom’s multiple visits to the hospital I really only got 7 good years with her. Specific memories are vague but I do remember a few general traits about her. She loved music – I think my obsession with Prince comes from her having his tape on repeat during our road trips to see relatives. She loved a good joke and a good laugh. She instilled in me an appreciation for multiple cultures, but especially African culture and history. She was craftsy: she sewed her own clothes and one afternoon we stitched and stuffed a big teddy bear.
I only have one cooking memory of her: one evening we made monkey-bread. I remember pulling the soft elastic dough apart and rolling them into balls, stacking them into the pound cake pan. I remember savoring the sweet sticky goodness of those same little dough balls after they came out of the oven a beautiful golden brown. What I don’t remember, is whether mom made the dough from scratch, though I assume she did because I don’t think Pillsbury canned dough had been invented yet.
What’s funny is that for years I thought she’d made up the name of that wonderful tasty treat. My mom was silly enough to call something “monkey bread” and I was young enough to believe she’d come up with that name herself. Then one day as an adult I was walking through Williams-Sonoma and came across a monkey bread mix. The memory flooded back. I didn’t buy it (just didn’t seem right to buy a boxed mix) but walked away amazed that this was a real thing, not just something mom created as a fun thing to do with her daughter. I walked away happy, thinking whenever I have a child we’re going to make monkey bread.
So now I have a daughter who carries my mother’s name, Beverly. I also have a recipe for monkey bread but using refrigerated dough. Everything else is the same: cinnamon, sugar, melted butter to make it all stick together. As an extra bonus it even has fruit and raisins to put between the dough balls. So very soon, Beverly & I will start a mother-daughter tradition: making monkey bread together.
I love you Mom.