They say the heart of a home is its kitchen, and for most, even in today's modern times, that kitchen is run by Mom. In some ways it never stops being run by her, even after we've grown and moved into kitchens of our own. She shows up in our methods and our means -- a legacy made from favorite recipes, seasoning styles and chopping techniques, a thousand different nuances.
Our mother's meals and ways of preparing them -- whether remembered fondly or with a head-shaking shudder -- have seeped into our psyches and shaped the way we cook.
We talked with the mothers of five local celebrities to glean some idea of the legacies they've given their children. The women shared tips, recipes and general thoughts on their famous kids' favorite dishes and, in some cases, cooking abilities.
Keeping Cal's strength up
With two of the four kids in the family destined to be athletes, Violet Ripken has always focused on quantity when it comes to cooking.
"The only thing we ever said about food, period," says Cal Ripken's mother, 63, "was that you can't cheat your stomach. You have to eat. That was particularly important when Cal was in the minor leagues and meal money was so small."
To stretch his budget, Cal, who was then rooming with a couple of other players, relied on the home-cooked recipes of his youth, opting for Mom's turkey potpie over more expensive restaurant meals.
"He still makes it today," says Violet, who lives in Aberdeen, even though money is no longer exactly tight.
O'Malley's cottage cheese
Mayor Martin O'Malley "developed into a good cook," says his mom, Barbara O'Malley, "which is just amazing to me, considering what he ate growing up."
Barbara, who works as a receptionist for Maryland Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski and lives in Rockville, says her cooking never went much beyond the standard meat-and-potatoes meal. This satisfied her six kids, who she says liked their food on the bland side. The young mayor-to-be spent a good portion of his early years subsisting on cottage cheese and applesauce.
As her kids aged, though, she got to be a bit more creative, adding seasonings or a little wine to a dish. But today, she avoids cooking at all if she can help it.
"Thinking back about all the years I cooked for eight people," she says, "makes me kind of casual about it all now. I'm glad Martin's the one doing it and not me."
Donna and the perfectionist
"I've been cooking since I was 18 years old," says Rosemarie Crivello, whose daughter, Donna Crivello, founded the Donna's Restaurant and Coffee Bars. "My mother wasn't well, and I had a dad and four brothers that I cooked for."
She says she learned by doing and watching when her mother used to cook. Donna adopted the technique.
"My mother is a really good cook," Donna says, "and a perfectionist. She likes to do everything herself, and everything she did always spilled over to me."
Donna, 48, says she marveled at her mother's Sunday dinners and her ability to bring all the components out at the same time. She uses those lessons now in preparing the menu for her nine restaurants and teaching cooking classes on the side.
Her 72-year-old mother, who lives in Baltimore, works five days a week as a host at the University of Maryland Medical System's Donna's (with Donna's dad). The couple spends winters in Florida. She even lent her ideas to the chefs at the Mount Vernon location, which features Rosemarie's tomato-sauce recipe on Monday nights.
"When my mother makes [the sauce]," Donna says, "it's the best."
Health food for Sisqo
Baltimore-bred R&B; singer Sisqo didn't learn anything about cooking, says his mother, Carolyn Andrews. But, then again, he really didn't have to. He usually has a personal chef.
Right now, though, he's between chefs and "living on Doritos and junk food," she says. "It's driving me crazy." Particularly because Carolyn, who still lives in the city, brought 25-year-old Sisqo (then known as Mark) up on health food.
"I don't do traditionalist type cooking," she says. "I don't use a lot of salt. I use a lot of greens, not much fat. My cooking's kind of bland. [Sisqo] had to go over to his godmother's to get the down-home cooking, which he did a lot. He really didn't like my cooking."
Sisqo's 6-year-old daughter, Shaione, however, does.
"We just finished the best batch of pancakes," says 54-year-old Carolyn, who was baby-sitting. "I make the best pancakes."
Cooking? What's that?
When Megan Gunning, Miss Maryland U.S.A., was growing up in Harford County, she wasn't one of those waifish beauty queens afraid of food.
"Whatever it was," says Ann Gunning, Megan's mom, "if you put it in front of her, she ate it."
And she still does, but Ann, 47, says that's now due more to the fact that Megan has no choice. The 22-year-old can't cook and eats with her parents in their Fallston home when she's not on the road.
"I think her kitchen canisters have hair products in them," Ann says.
Megan blames her mother.
"She can't cook, either," Megan says. "When my dad's out of town and it's just the two of us, we'll just look at each other like, 'What are we going to do now?' " And then they order carryout.
Ann says the best food advice she ever gave Megan and her 20-year-old sister, Meredith, was to "find a good man to do the cooking." And she admits her meal skills are limited to "very basic" dishes, like skillet dinners (ground beef mixed with macaroni and tomatoes), but she says she's a world-class baker.
"I just love to bake," she says. "Dessert always makes a meal special."
Megan concurs, adding that unfortunately she didn't pick up the skill.
"What I'm good at making," Megan says, "is reservations."
Here are some recipes that mothers of local celebrities shared. (In some cases, we clarified amounts and directions.)
Ann Gunning's Hot-Milk Poundcake
This recipe is one of Ann's favorites, in part because it's "no fail."
Serves 8 to 12
3 sticks butter
3 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
1 cup warm milk
3 cups sifted flour
Grease and flour 12-cup bundt pan and preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Cream the butter, sugar and extracts, then add the eggs one by one. Alternately add the milk and flour. Bake for an hour and 20 minutes.
Violet Ripken's Turkey Potpie
The best time to make this, says Violet (pictured right with son Cal), is right after Thanksgiving, when you can pull leftover turkey meat right from the bird's bones.
3 large sliced potatoes
1/3 cup bacon grease (or shortening)
1 medium chopped onion
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1/3 cup butter
2/3 cup milk
3 cups precooked turkey pulled from carcass into bite-sized pieces (substitute ground turkey burger if you like)
Bisquick (see note)
Put the potatoes in a skillet with the bacon grease and the onion and cover with water. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes. Drain and put into a 9-inch square casserole dish. Put butter and milk into skillet. Stir until boiling. Add the turkey, cook for 1 minute and add to the casserole dish. Cover with a Bisquick crust (you'll need milk for the box's recipe) or your own baking-powder-biscuit dough. Cook for 30 to 35 minutes at 425 degrees.
Note: Follow directions on box, or you can make your own biscuit topping by cutting 1/4 cup shortening into 2 cups flour. Add 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and mix in 3/4 cup milk. Knead lightly for about 30 seconds, roll to 1 1/2 inches thick and lay atop casserole dish.
Rosemarie Crivello's Red Sauce With Meatballs and Sausages
To really make this sauce as Rosemarie does, which is in large quantities, plan on feeding the entire family - extended, too.
Serves 8 to 12
2 pounds ground beef
1 cup Romano cheese
2/3 cup bread crumbs, lightly toasted and finely ground
3 tablespoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil to coat saute pan
1 pound Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, chopped
12 ounces tomato paste
18 ounces water
2/3 cup red wine
two 32-ounce cans chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
fresh herbs (rosemary and thyme kept on stems so they can be removed before serving)
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
salt and pepper to taste
Begin with the meatballs. Mix all ingredients well and roll into 2- to 3-ounce balls. Heat large saute pan with medium-high heat, coat the pan with olive oil and sear all sides of the meatballs. Cook on medium heat until firm. Put meatballs in large stockpot. Cook the sausage in the same saute pan and transfer to the stockpot. In the same pan, saute the onion in the olive oil and then add the garlic. Add the tomato paste, stirring well, and add the water. Simmer. Add the wine and transfer all to the stockpot. Add the chopped tomatoes, bay leaves, herbs, fennel seeds, salt and pepper. Simmer for 1 to 2 hours on low heat, being careful not to burn the bottom.
Remove bay leaves and herbs before serving. Serve over penne or ziti macaroni and top with freshly grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.
Carolyn Andrews' Pancakes
Makes nine 4-inch pancakes
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup oil
Beat all ingredients until smooth. Heat griddle or skillet over medium heat to 375 degrees. Pour batter in 1/4 -cup measures and cook until the edges are puffed and dry. Flip.