Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

Journey Mercies . . . Every Recipe Tells a Story

We all know what recipes are . . . they’re guides that help us be creative and try something new.  They teach us to follow directions, make us feel like we’ve done our best, and when all is said and done, we end up with an incredible meal!  Right?  Well, maybe just sometimes ; )

What I do know is that creating a great meal is a lot like creating a great life.  No matter what ingredients you have in your cupboard, all it takes is envisioning what the end result will be. We all have gifts and we all can make our recipes matter. There are many of us that will need help, but who doesn’t most of the time?

It’s all in reading the recipe, taking our time and being patient. It’s in giving and receiving help. And then, we wait.  And waiting gives us the joy to savor the results of our labor!

I first learned of my family’s recipes through my grandparents on both sides.  In one of my last blog’s I talked about my father’s parents. Because they entertained a lot, I grew up eating many things that most people now a day might never think to serve, let alone cook.

Roast leg of lamb, mint jelly, pearled onions, creamed beets, carrots and parsnips cooked and mashed together (yuk!), riced potatoes, gravy, lime Jell-o with cottage cheese and pineapple chunks or orange Jell-o with grated carrots and raisins.  Then there was rhubarb for dessert.  Who makes rhubarb anymore?  When my grandmother cooked, every pan, every dish, every glass and every utensil in her house was used!  Etiquette was always on her mind.  She would have made Emily Post proud!  My grandmother was also Irish, so when she wasn’t cooking for others, she remembered her roots and there were lots of soda bread, cabbage and corned beef and potatoes Not often, but she managed to offer it.

And then, there was my mom’s family. They were a world apart in stature and in life.

My maternal grandparents were very poor dirt famers in Arkansas.  They raised chickens for eggs as well as food, had a cow for milk and butter, raised pigs, and had two mules that plowed their potato field and took them to town in a buckboard.  Life was so very different there. The outhouse was about 75 feet from the back door. There was no running water, but a deep well outside the house and a bucket that hung from a hook with a dipper so you could get a drink. The smells from the wood-burning stove reminded everyone that Grandma was cooking.

And the food . .  . oh, the food!  Fried chicken, baked ham, black-eyed peas, fresh string beans, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, corn bread, biscuits and gravy, bacon with just about every meal, and sweet tea in a mason jar.


My kids & grandkids love family dinners. And I find that our best times together revolve around really good food.  When my kids were little there were lots of favorites: Chicken and Rice casserole, momma’s homemade mac and cheese, fried chicken or meatloaf with mashed potatoes and gravy, potato cheese soup, corned beef and cabbage, and momma’s Sweeties for Thanksgiving with my special Turkey gravy.  Then there was snicker doodles, and decorated sugar cookies, Norwegian Leftsa and Rullepulse (commonly know as Rulle, which translates to “rolled meat”) for Christmas.  I don’t cook like that anymore.  But my kids do and they’ve carried on the traditions.

There are literally thousands of recipe books available.  But the one I loved way back when was Chicken Soup for the Soul, which came out in 1993. It was filled with stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things. It wasn’t meant to heal the body . . . it was meant to heal the soul.  That’s where I first realized that recipes for life are all around us. I learned that not everyone’s recipe is the same.  I also learned that if you embellish something, you might get a whole new flavor.  I learned to be open to try new things, even when you don’t think you’ll like it.  I also learned that you can add so much to some one elses life if you just add a pinch of love and kindness.

Life’s recipe calls for joy, happiness and success, but we all know if we aren’t careful we can ruin the dish.  Too salty, too watery, undercooked, forgot an ingredient, or simply didn’t pay attention and burned it up.  It happens all the time.  Life is like that too. We need to be purposeful in how we create our life’s recipe.  Take your time, read the directions carefully, keep tasting, and wait until you have just what you think might be the best one yet before you start experimenting.  In the end, your favorite dish just may end up being Joy, Happiness, Success, . . . and Love!

My Recipes for Life:

Respondto your needs and to those of your family and friends.  Be the “salt” that can turn anyone’s feelings from hopeless to hopeful.

• ExperimentDon’t be afraid to try “different”. Don’t keep yourself on one page of the book. As Forrest once said, Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what your gonna get” 

• CreateStep outside your Betty Crocker and savor the joy of creating something fresh & exciting!  If at first you don’t succeed, you’re one step closer to to perfect!

InitiativeTake the first step toward “new.”  Use all the “cook books” you can find.  Look at it as a journey.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

PersistentNever give up on your life’s recipe.  If you know that you are a valuable component in the overall recipe – keep on trying.  The proof is in the pudding!

Enjoy – Savor every morsel.  Bite off a big chunk of life and be all that you can be!

Surprise – What you thought you wouldn’t try – becomes your ultimate favorite!

What’s your favorite recipe?

What recipe in life do you hold fast?

Molly Keating
Molly Keating
Hello! I'm Molly and I run & manage the Blog here at O'Connor. I grew up in a mortuary with a mortician for a father who's deep respect for the profession inspired me to give working at a mortuary a try. Work at O'Connor has brought together two of my deep passions, writing & grief awareness. In 2016 I earned Certification in the field of Thanatology, the study of Death, Dying and Bereavement. I am honored to be able to speak on these taboo topics with knowledge, compassion, and a unique perspective. I want to sincerely thank you for following & reading the blog, I hope that this is a healing place for you.


  1. Kori Kolstad says:

    Once again you have taken me on a journey with your words. I love to read your blog Mom. It’s amazing isn’t it how far we have come as a family but also as individuals. Life’s recipes…we are adding new flavors and ingredients everyday. You are a beautiful writer, Momma.

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hello daughter:

      I think if we put all of our “recipes for life” in a book it would be a best seller! My goodness, we have lots of them! Here’s a title . . “Kolstad Family Recipes . . a Story About Life” Makes me dizzy just thinking about it.

      But you, my darling daughter, would be right up at the top of the list. Your story is heartbreaking, heartwarming and heartfelt. Just as a baker is known for his flavorful breads, your ability to rise, be punched down, and rise again, gives your life it’s savory flavor. You are a Master Baker!

      I love you dearly, and thank you for keeping up with the blogs!


  2. Carrie Bayer says:

    Pat, I love how you have likened life to recipes- it is so true! My mom is an amazing cook & she always makes my favorite dishes when I go visit. It takes me back to my early days when I had no cares in the world. What a great reminder that to have our “dish of life” come out right, we must follow the recipe or adjust it to how we want it. Thank you! Carrie

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      You have a recipe book filled with many savory reflections of your life. Keep adding and adjusting. We’re always experimenting and making corrections so we have just the right flavor. You are well on your way to becoming a great chef!



  3. Shayna Mallik says:

    What a great post and boy am I hungry now! LOL!
    Every blog you right is so beautifully written. I am remembering all our big get togethers with the amazing food in my family. My family loves to cook, my dad used to be a chief at a fine dining restaurant, so the food is so good I can’t even describe it.
    Once again Thank You for the wonderful words of wisdom!!!
    Love ya Momma P


    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hi Shayna:
      You are so sweet! Thank you for your words. Remembering is one of the greatest gifts. It helps us
      to tell the story to others. Our times around the table, breaking bread and listening to stories is what
      makes us who we are.

      Love you dearly,

      Momma P

  4. Hi Pat –

    I love this post! I have only two real recipes, one for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, the other for guacamole. I want to take a cooking class this next year. I do love to cook and make a healthy meal for family and friends. I just need to get back into the kitchen and learn how to again. I loved working in restaurants, it was so fun to see something from scratch turn into a great meal.

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      Hi Neil:

      Recipes handed down for generations are something we all want to remember and keep alive within our families. Recipes for life are something entirely different. Like the recipes we remember our mom making, like mac and cheese, or southern fried chicken – they are the comfort we look for as we grow older.

      The same is true for the life recipes that get us to where we are today. Making sure that we give ourselves the right amount of seasoning so that we can become our true selves.

      I’m looking forward to some of those oatmeal chocolate chip cookies . . . would be a great Christmas Gift


  5. kari Leslie says:

    Hi Momma,
    Food!! Most of my favorite childhood memories are those you’ve included here. Your words turn on a movie in my mind, with the sights and sounds of simpler times, and loving family. I remember Sunday’s at Great Grandma Branch’s table, even though I only had a few of them. Lace table cloth’s, fine china, silver, and crystal. It’s amazing how both sides of our family gathered around a table. Nanna and her bounty of homemade goodness, and Grandma Mahoney and the finest restaurants on the planet. So different, and yet memorable and special in their own way. Food has always meant love and relationship to me, and I love how you associated it with the recipes of our lives. We have so much to remember, and so much yet to make!! The recipe’s keep getting better and better!! Thank you again for your amazing words!!
    I love you so!!

    • Patricia Kolstad says:

      My darling daughter:
      You are so right. Our whole lives revolve around memories around the table. Good, bad and indifferent. Trying to get everyone together is becoming a real struggle with work schedules. I’m so thankful that we will all be together for Christmas. What a miracle!

      You will be taking the reins over – helping to continue the tradition of the old and new favorites. We have had a lot of diversity in our family with regard to stations in life and foods that are chosen. Some created by loving hand and others created by top of the list Chef’s. I know my favorites –

      I know that our life’s recipes have been a mixture of “awful” stuff mixed in with the very best flavors ever. But we have now created the perfect recipe – filled with love, joy and blessings. Our family has become Master Chef’s who, after many fallen soufflé’s, we have discovered the perfect recipe. Our family speaks volume’s to that!

      I love you dearly . . . Master Chef!


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