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FEATURE

Mother’s Day: What Anna Jarvis Intended

Brad Long

Mother’s Day: What Anna Jarvis Intended | Brad Long

Image courtesy VintageHolidayCrafts.com

Brad Long

BRAD LONG is a renowned Canadian chef and a pioneer in developing fresh, customized food programs that advocate ethical, local, organic, and sustainable practices from dirt to dish. His restaurant, Café Belong, is located at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, ON. His first book, Brad Long on Butter, won Best Single-Subject Cookbook in Canada at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

Mother’s Day is fake. Or at least that’s what some people think. It was, of course, invented. Back in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honour mothers.

As the versions of its origins unwind, Mother’s Day was supposedly the invention of Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honour her own mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, after her death in 1905. By the 1920s, the holiday had become deeply commercialized, and after considering the marketing wasteland she had primed, Anna deeply loathed her creation, even going to great lengths to try to boycott the holiday.

What was intended as an honourable and deserved tribute to motherhood quickly fell victim to pecuniary lust — in exactly the same way other desirable concepts, policies, or products have been tainted since the very first salesmen preached that honour is best conveyed with cash or credit. Just put your gifts over there, thanks.

Even if we can’t save this holiday from the crass manipulators, we can still honour and toast mothers amid the sales flyers, special offers, and low low prices.

It’d be easy to crumple up the cards and throw them in the heap with the other hallmarked holidays. But … wait. Let’s not forget where Anna was coming from. This day was actually borne of bigger things. After all I learned from my mother, combined with all I’ve learned by watching my wife’s intense focus on our five children, I deeply believe that mothers deserve their day. And even if we can’t save this holiday from the crass manipulators, we can still honour and toast mothers amid the sales flyers, special offers, and low low prices. I’ve come to think that Anna, a rather intense and religious woman, should have moved past the greed, sizzle, and hyperbole, should have tuned out the crappy, lying marketers, and simply enjoyed the truth and beauty of motherhood in the way she’d originally intended, even if, perhaps, it took placing a finger in each ear. In truth, embracing this distinctly flawed but lovable holiday frees us to stop and talk about mothers in a way that really matters.

Mother’s Day is about remembering, of course. But more than that, it’s about giving back a little of all the things mothers do for us, if only for a moment. It’s about considering the scope of motherhood, but it’s also about the little details, the sustenance, the joy, the quiet moments, the bottomless hope, and the unflinching support that mothers give. This is the stuff we all need. The stuff that we should appreciate. And on our own mother’s day, we need to do it in a way that no marketing, no promotion, and certainly no one but each of us can tell our mom. We simply need to, if we do nothing else, sit and talk with mum, tell a story, listen to a story, and revel in the most intense connection two humans can have.

In memory of my mother, Barbara, who showed me that food was the thread that connected our family each day. As our Chef, she taught us that food is about love, home, and family. And in celebration of the mother of my children, Sheryl, who will graciously allow me to cook, and even participate in, the festivities of her well-deserved day.

Brad Long

BRAD LONG is a renowned Canadian chef and a pioneer in developing fresh, customized food programs that advocate ethical, local, organic, and sustainable practices from dirt to dish. His restaurant, Café Belong, is located at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto, ON. His first book, Brad Long on Butter, won Best Single-Subject Cookbook in Canada at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.

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