editor’s note: Today’s very special post is from Betty Kilpatrick, who happens to be the mother of one of my best friends, Kristen. If you read this site, you’ve seen Kristen’s stunning work—she’s the photographer behind so many of my favorite shoots through the years. We love talking about food together, and our conversations often turn to what her mother, Betty, is cooking up at home in Fort Worth. For years, I’ve drooled over descriptions of the homemade cheeses and wholesome baked bread and been equally moved by the way that Kristen speaks of her mother’s creations with so much pride and love.
In honor of Mother’s Day weekend—and since Kristen has been at home cooking alongside her mama during quarantine—I asked the duo to share this Lemon Ricotta Poundcake that I recently spotted on Kristen’s Instagram. Read on for the inspiring story that Betty shares about what scratch cooking means to her, right alongside her daughter’s photographs. And of course, the recipe is at the bottom—it’s one I’ll be making for years to come.
I know that you guys will find this article as meaningful and special as I did. From Betty:
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the expression “more is caught than taught.” It certainly rings true with passionate cooking and homesteading, something that has been handed down from one generation to the next in my family. Growing up, I was lucky to be close to my grandparents – spending summers working (but really playing) on their small farm. Life on the farm meant scratch cooking was the only option for Grandmom, a hard-working Czech woman who loved a bargain until the day she died. My brother, David, and I used to scour her kitchen for anything purchased from the store… our findings were sparse. It’s something we used to joke about. In a time when everything comes premade, pre-chopped, or pre-cooked, it seems silly to labor over such tasks.
But as I’ve grown, I realize the benefit of scratch cooking greatly outweighs any time lost. Scratch cooking gives us time together, a concept of hard work and accomplishment, and a deep connection with the earth that sustains us.
For Grandmom, this meant that butter, cheese, milk, cream, bread, eggs, vegetables (be they fresh or canned from the previous harvest), and pickles all came from her modest kitchen. Her freezer was full of meats processed from the cattle Granddad raised, she knew the exact spot to find the turkey hiding in the woods, and in true Czech fashion, there was always a freshly baked sweet treat for her grandkids. David and I gladly accepted the latter, scarfing down every warm kolache that came our way. My mom inherited this passion from her own days on the farm and today, many of the traditions carry on. Even as I write this, I am looking over my summer garden—realizing I wish I had inherited Grandmom’s diligence about canning excess growth. To this day, the sight of a bursting green garden dusted with orange squash blossoms reminds me of Grandmom and connects me to her legacy.
At the farm, making a mess in the kitchen was never considered a negative—it was accepted as part of the process. A process that resulted in the most delicious treats. We knew that any mess could be thrown in the scrap bucket kept in the corner for chickens, or composted for next year’s growth. In the times of COVID, times when tragedy and heartbreak abound, I hold tight to this idea.
While a kitchen mess is nothing compared to the current state of the world, I know that the mess of this will be used for next season’s growth. That this mess, too, while painful beyond imagine, has been used to bring people together.
I haven’t come across a single person who doesn’t have a silver lining in the midst of this all.
For me, this season has allowed me the extra time to take up cheesemaking again, including runs to local farms to get the freshest raw milk and important updates on the “girls” (aka cows who I now know by name.) My biggest silver lining has been having my oldest daughter, Kristen, isolate at our ranch for two months, allowing us to spend more generational time in the kitchen. After a raw milk run and subsequent Gouda making, we found ourselves with an extra gallon of milk begging to be turned into fresh ricotta. Remember the book, “If you give a mouse a cookie?” Well, if you give Czech women fresh homemade ricotta, they will certainly find a way to use it in something sweet and springy. Kristen added to my original lemon ricotta poundcake recipe by suggesting candied lemon slices and I must say, it elevated this cake to a whole new high. You’ll see. And since I know you’re curious, the remainder of the ricotta went in blueberry pancakes the next morning.
While I would do anything in my power to take away the pain of so many during this time, I’m doing what I know how to do: making lemon pound cake out of lemons.
Scroll on for the recipe for Betty Lou’s lemon ricotta poundcake…
This post was originally published on May 8, 2020, and has since been updated.