For Mother’s Day, Farmers Market Chefs Share How to Make Food as Good as Mom’s
Selina Knowles, Communications Coordinator
May 5, 2022
You can hone your culinary skills at home, or even dine at the finest restaurants in the city, but nothing quite compares to home cooked meals made by mom. Mother’s Day is a reminder to recognize and appreciate mothers, grandmothers, and other caregivers who nourish us, both in food made with love and wisdom shared over time.
This Mother’s Day, we are sharing a few stories from Foodwise food makers whose early culinary curiosities were nurtured by their mothers. They continue to rely on skills and knowledge from their mothers as they work alongside the next generation, now as parents themselves.
Bini’s Kitchen: mixing spices by hand and cooking by heart
When you bite into Binita “Bini” Pradhan’s steaming dumplings, known as momos, you can taste not only the rich flavors of her homeland in Nepal, but also the care and love that went into creating them. The unmatched flavors on the menu at Bini’s Kitchen can be attributed to carefully created spice mixes, inspired by Bini’s mother, Sarada. According to Bini (pictured above with her first employee, Namgyal), “anything and everything I am cooking at Bini’s Kitchen is her legacy.”
Formerly a cook for the Nepalese royal family, Sarada encouraged Bini’s curiosity about cooking and shared the traditional knowledge of hand-mixing blends of spices with cumin seeds, cardamom, cinnamon, and more. Bini recalls holding onto her mother’s sari, drawn in by the wafting aroma of spices, and trying to get a peek at what she was cooking. “Back in our house, it was always sun drying, sun roasting, and hand drying. These are the things which are marked in my brain. These are the spices that go in everything, including the momos.”
In her kitchen today, Bini continues to practice her mother’s advice: cook from the heart. She says, “When a husband and wife, or a mother and daughter are cooking, and they start fighting, the food is atrocious. When they are having fun, there’s music, and cooking from the heart, and with love, you can taste the difference in the food.”
Now a mother herself, she hopes to share the joy and love of cooking with her son, Ayush. Bini has cautioned, “Don’t go and buy frozen dumplings, cook your food.” For her, this is another valuable pillar of good tasting food. While Ayush is still learning how to make momos, he is sure to cook the ones made by his mother with care.
Mi Comedor: three generations of cooking with love
A lunchtime go-to at the weekday markets, Chef Olivia Mecalco (pictured above with her daughter, Michelle) of Mi Comedor makes mouth-watering Mexican street food with the learned skills and family recipes passed down from her mother, Emilia, and grandmother, Rafaela. Both Emilia and Rafaela were keen to pass on traditional recipes and methods, and their intention and love come through in Olivia’s cooking today.
In Olivia’s memory, her grandmother’s cooking is tied to moments that brought the family together. “My grandmother made handmade tortillas for the family, and we sat at the table and ate together.” Rafaela’s recipes were passed down to Olivia’s mother, Emilia, who eventually took up teaching Olivia, in order to keep family traditions alive.
In the family’s kitchen, a binding philosophy has been shared across generations: “The food tastes better when it’s cooked with love.” Most recently, this has been repeated by Olivia’s daughter, Michelle, who works with her mother at Mi Comedor. There are so many treasured recipes that Olivia hopes to pass onto her daughter, including favorites from Mi Comedor that her mother taught her to make, like huitlacoche quesadillas and chicken tinga tacos.
Delightful Foods: devoting enthusiasm and perseverance
Along the water at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturday, you’ll find an array of delectable cakes, pies, and mini desserts at Delightful Foods. Owner and baker Bilal Sabir (pictured above with his daughter Faruza) learned to cook from his mother, Clara, who cooked professionally. He boasts that she was “the most excellent cook,” and the desserts she made six days of the week often tempted friends into visiting just for a taste.
From the smooth filling to the golden crust, Bilal’s pies have left admirers of Delightful Foods wondering just what makes them so good. Part of the answer is simply his longtime love for baking, which began in the kitchen on one fateful Halloween night. Bilal recalls, “I must have been ten or eleven years old, and all my brothers and sisters were out trick or treating, and I decided I didn’t want to trick or treat. I wanted to learn how to bake a pie.”
Bilal asked his mother to teach him how to bake a pie with the pumpkin that was decorating their porch. She replied, “I don’t do pumpkin pie. I make sweet potato pie. But for you, I’ll make a half pumpkin, half sweet potato pie.” Since that night, when she and Bilal made a one-of-a-kind sweet potato-pumpkin pie, Clara encouraged Bilal to experiment with recipes, and to never give up on whatever he dreamed of doing.
Delightful Foods has grown significantly since it first started in the 1980s, with the help of Bilal’s wife, Rafia, and their nine children. Bilal hopes to pass on to the next generation the enthusiasm and perseverance that his mother shared with him.
Support Bini’s Kitchen and Delightful Foods at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market on Saturdays, and Mi Comedor on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also support Delightful Foods and Mi Comedor at Mission Community Market on Thursdays.