I grew up in Poplarville, Mississippi. A small town that got its first red light after I moved away to college.
I had never had a steak cooked less than well done until my first restaurant job in McComb at the Caboose Steakhouse. Rest in Peace, Chef Parker Voss. I will forever be grateful for him not treating me like a complete imbecile every day because I definitely deserved it.
I had no clue what a macaron or a sous vide was until I was working at The Purple Parrot Café in my twenties.
When I left my hometown, I knew everything and nothing all at once, but that’s what leaving home is about. I made an attempt to shift. I decided to travel, read books, visit museums, eat things I had never heard of, and eventually, let some real love in.
Gradually, I tried to start living with my ears and eyes a little more open so that maybe I wouldn’t miss the small moments. When I was in my twenties, the small moments I clung to were the dainty details of raindrops chasing each other down the window of a pub in London, the way the rainforest smelled in Australia, and the taste of a warm crepe in Paris.
Once I got married, I hoped I would be able to close my eyes and remember exactly what that steak and bone marrow tasted like when my husband and I went to Maple & Ash in Chicago. I still smile when I think about how good he looked sitting at Billy’s Stone Crab Restaurant on our honeymoon and how perfect my scallops were…I can also clearly remember the fact that the Harissa butter sauce was so good I could’ve licked it off my plate if no one had been looking. So many of the best memories I have are beautifully intertwined with a restaurant or meal or even a specific entrée.
Now that I’m a mother, I can remember that my husband and I laughed until we cried just a few nights ago, but for the life of me, I can’t tell you what was so funny. There are a million other details I’ve tried to hold on to. But so many of those details have just fallen away and been replaced with seeing my daughter smile. The way her big brown eyes light up when my husband walks into a room and she squeals, “DADDY!” The excitement I felt buying her first macaron from La Brioche in Jackson. Being proud that she eats her redfish blackened, watching her analyze a crawfish, always giving her the first taste of icing when I make a wedding cake, letting her eat a piece of wagyu steak when she was only two. Again, so many memories have become intertwined with food, all of which have danced off of a plate and into my heart.
Somehow, I ended up with a much more open heart and mind in the process of becoming a mom than I probably ever would have had I become just another workhorse in the restaurant industry. I’ve learned to slow down and savor a really good cup of coffee. To take a deep breath while her head is laying on my shoulder and she’s still small enough to be curled up in my lap. To watch the sunlight dance through her tangle of blond curls in the mornings.
I’ve been trying really hard to be the kind of mom that does the right thing. And I would one hundred percent be lying if I said I didn’t miss the controlled chaos of a busy Saturday night or the absolutely unhinged mayhem of a Sunday brunch in a kitchen. But I missed out on just enough time with my child for life to begin a hissing in my ear, “YOU ARE MISSING IT.” So I decided to bow out before I gave my career more love than my child. After all, what is motherhood if not the epitome of second chances?
So now I’ve had a moment to really sit with myself and think about the next steps of being a mom. At this point, I’m just hoping I can show her enough of the world, feed her enough good food, and give her enough love that she has an open heart long before she outgrows my house and her town.
And I never want her to forget that no matter how far she may go, she can always come back to our Mississippi home.