The things our mothers did

By Kitsey Burns Harrison
Kitsey’s Kitchen -

I’m at the age where I catch myself saying or doing things that my mamma always did. Some people dread turning into their mother, but I consider it an honor to be even remotely like my mom — even if that just entails picking up her odd habits.

One of the random things I remember my mamma doing was always saving nice paper shopping bags with handles. She’d use them as lunch bags or to pack up leftovers or other treats to send home with friends and family. Much to my husband’s consternation, I have taken up this practice.

It really all began with a bag from the famous Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Our good friend David traveled there earlier this year and brought us back coffee and beignet mix. I thought the bag was extra special since it came from this world famous restaurant so I hung the paper bag on the handle of the liquor cart in our kitchen which serves as a catch all for kitchen odds and ends.

“Do we really have to save the bag?” my husband asked. Well, yes, of course we should.

From there the collection grew, even plain brown paper bags with handles were saved, because, who knows, we might need one. Every time my husband walked by this corner of the kitchen, he’d end up knocking off the growing bag collection as it had grown to so many bags they no longer fit hanging on the handle of the cart. “I’m going to throw those away,” he’d threaten.

Finally, to save my bags from certain doom in the rubbish bin, I moved them to a closet. I still have yet to actually use one, but somehow it’s a comfort to know the stash is there should I need a nice paper bag with handles.

My paper bag collection made me wonder what quirks my friends may have picked up from their mothers. Seems I’m not the only one who inherited a bag habit. My friend Allycia said folding plastic bags flat as opposed to balling them up is a habit she picked up from her mom.

Saving things that can be reused is very common. My friend Erin said her mom always saved the Country Crock butter containers to use for leftovers, therefore requiring several containers to be opened in the fridge before actually locating the butter.

Breaking the spaghetti in half before cooking is a habit my friend Donna said she inherited from her mom.

Many of the habits my friends said they picked up from their mothers relate to cooking.

“Ours was a family of six, two boys, two girls and two parents. My mother could not cook for less than 16, I don’t know who else she expected to show up for dinner, but there was always a fridge filled with fantastic leftovers,” said my friend Gary. “We shrunk to a family of five, she still cooked for 16. We shrunk to four, she began cutting back to 12 servings. When we shrunk to three, money was tight so portions were cut back to about 10. When it was just me and mom, she cooked for about seven. When I moved out, she stopped cooking meals all together, unless some of the kids were coming over for dinner. I inherited her inability to cook in proper proportions. But like Mother Mary, anybody who knocks on the door is going to be fed.”

Camerin told me that the cooking habit she picked up actually came from her grandmother.

“My Memom (mom’s mom) did this and I do it, too — whenever I’m cooking and there are people in the house I’ll make a small easy appetizer, like sliced cucumber with vinegar, salt and pepper on it to lure people into the kitchen to keep me company. Who can resist an appetizer?”

The proper way to prepare rice is what Carrie told me her mom instilled in her.

“Rice is to be simmered for precisely 20 minutes after coming to a boil. The lid must fit securely on the pot and NEVER be removed during the cooking time,” Carrie said.

From how we cook to even how we stand in the kitchen, we’ve all inherited a lot from our mothers. Here’s a story Alicia told me:

“When I was younger, my mom used to walk around the house barefoot. Whenever she would stand at the kitchen counter for a long time (cooking or washing dishes) she’d stand on the outside edges of her feet with her big toes kinda stretched upward. I have no idea where she picked up the habit and she rarely realized she was doing it. Fast forward to me being a Peace Corps volunteer in a rundown house in the Tongan bush. I’m washing dishes and watching the neighbor’s pigs nosing through my yard again, when it occurs to me that my feet hurt. I glance down to see myself standing the same way that my mom used to! I told her the story and she couldn’t stop laughing at me!”

It’s nice to know I’m not the only one who has picked up some habits from my mother.

Kitsey Burns Harrison is a reporter for the Yadkin Ripple. Here she shares her musings on food, life, love and being a new mom. She can be reached at or on Twitter and Instagram @RippleReporterK.

Kitsey’s Kitchen’s Kitchen

By Kitsey Burns Harrison