The Women Who Have Inspired Our Readers to Cook and Eat with Joy

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Happy International Women’s Day! Since 1911, this has been a day to celebrate women and their achievements, and to press for gender parity around the world.

There are so many conversations and stories we could have about women in the kitchen (it’s been a place that has both weighed women down and launched them forward).

But for today we kept it simple: We asked our readers to tell us about women who have inspired them to cook and eat with joy. Joy — without fear or shame or the weight of cultural expectations — is a state of freedom. Here are a few inspiring stories from our readers of women who have freed them in the kitchen.

1. Their mothers, of course.

The overwhelming response on Facebook was that our readers were inspired to cook and eat from their mothers. Here are a few of our favorite stories.

My mother. She was a “foodie” before that was even a thing. I didn’t know that sweet potatoes could be bought in a can until I attended Thanksgiving at my husband’s parents house. My mother insisted that we spend our Sundays in the city (NYC) trying different restaurants. For my tenth birthday my parents took me to Trader Vic’s at the Plaza Hotel. After that I was hooked and eventually it led me to a career in food writing. – Susan Drucker Ericson

My mumsie. When I was a toddler I stopped eating meat and as I grew older and my youngest sister followed suit, rather than making two dinners for four kids, she had me cook for myself. I learned how to adapt her recipes and how to get creative. I’ve also never known a person to pull together the most decadent “finer things” spread last-minute for company or just for fun. — Sydney Antonides-Stokes

My Mom. She lived to cook and make new recipes. As a child it was you have to eat one tablespoon of it, if you don’t like it, you don’t have to have more, but you have to try it. As a result it made me love food and love trying new food. — Maia Dawn Wolf

My mom. She always was and still is an amazing cook. People (whole families, even) could be invited over for lunch after church and she never batted an eye. She just started cooking when we got home and a feast would appear that was always enough to feed the number of people around the table. She never showed any signs of stress or frustration over this — just her amazingly gracious hospitality. — Linda Todd

2. The many other women in their family.

Many readers also shared stories of their grandmothers, aunts, sisters, and other women in their family who inspired them to cook.

My grandmother, my mum and my aunt: from baking bread to clear soup to cutting meat to making different kind of cheeses to keeping the family and everyone who happened to be around, equal around the table: their way of making sure that everyone is fed, regardless of who they were, was one of the greatest lessons I have even been taught. — Mădălina Mocan

My Grandmother — she grew up learning to make a feast out of whatever was on hand, and serving it at a beautifully set table. My daughter says, “Mom-mom could peel and slice an apple, put it on a pretty plate and make you thing you were at a banquet.” — Marian Walbert Wyble

My grandmother! Food was love to her & she prepared it with Southern grace for her extensive family & friends. Our fondest memories are sitting at her Alabama table. — Jan Booth

My sister Susan Canizares! An amazing cook and hostess! I have wanted be be like her since I was a little girl. — Joanne Greene

3. The big three: Ina Garten, Julia Child, Nigella Lawson.

Many readers mentioned (with gusto) that one of these famous women cooks inspired them in the kitchen. Surprised? Neither were we.

Recovering from anorexia I turned to an old copy of “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and after years of eating just enough to stay alive Julia Child saved me and taught me that food can be delicious, a source of pride and joy, and that cooking can be the best therapy a person could ask for. — Joey C

Julia child and my mom! And we watched the show together a lot. – Nikki McBroom

Ina Garten!! Love, Love, Love her!! — Tina Cullen

Nigella Lawson!!! — Alice Delaney

Your turn: Tell us about a woman who has inspired you to cook and eat with joy!