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Yukari's Story...My mom & the Secret Sauce

Updated: Mar 15

Everybody has a different relationship with their family, especially the relationship between a mother & a daughter, and a mother & a son. Just like our finger prints are all unique and different, some of us have great relationship, and others, not so much. When I think of Aric’s mom, I think of her as the original “Martha Stewart”. She knew how to garden, sew, cook and many other things, she could definitely be one of the best home economics teacher. Aric and everyone else got along with her; Her laughter was so contagious, it would make anyone to smile. She was a caring and loving person, and had a gentle soul. (Here are some blogs Aric wrote about her)

black and white photo with a mom, a baby boy and a young boy
Marge, Baby Aric & Young Phil

On the other hand, my mom was strictly a working mom. She worked from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm, 5 days a week. She would leave the house at 8:15 am and back at home around 6:30 pm, so I was pretty much raised by my grandma when I was little. My mom was a tough woman in the era in Japan when women had a very limited places to get a full time job. She was the youngest of 5 sisters, the only one who graduated from the high school. She pursued her career by going to a technical school in the evening, got a degree as a “typist” for Japanese typewriter, and she was very proud of herself and her career choice. I still remember that sounds of the typewriter my mom used in the later evening, so she could finish typing the paper by the deadline.

(The Japanese typewriter was bulky and laborious to use. Unlike the English-language typewriter, which allows the typist to key in text quickly, one needed to locate and then retrieve the desired character from a large matrix of metal characters. For instance, to type a sentence, the typist would need to find and retrieve around 22 symbols from about three different character matrices, making the sentence longer to type than its romanized version. For this reason, typists are required to undergo specialized training and word processing was not part of the duties of the ordinary office workers. [Reference from Wikipedia] )


Unfortunately my mom and I never had a good relationship, and I was a black sheep of the family. I never learned how to sew, cook, or garden from my mom, and for that, I’m forever thankful for Aric’s mom who shared so many things with me. My mom had reasons to be uptight, but I was also too young to understand why my mom was always so tired and grumpy, and I constantly guessed if she was in a good mood or bad. Every year when Mother’s day approaches, Aric and I both get some heavy feelings. For Aric it’s because he misses his mom, and he wishes he could still cook with her. Watching many of his friends who are still able to celebrate with their moms is joyful and painful at the same time for him. For me, it’s because the day reminds me how disconnected my mom and I were, and noticing the differences between us, and how other moms & daughters celebrate each other.

black and white photo of a young Japanese woman in mid 20's wearing long trench coat
My working mom


A long time ago, my brother once asked me if I remember how my mom made a certain dish with her own recipe. I looked at him twice and was thinking if we had the same mom; because I rarely saw her cooking in the kitchen, but I vividly remember how she cleaned the house almost obsessively on her days off. I thought I remember more of the food my grandma made for us when I was a kid, but my brother was right; my mom cooked a few things on her days off, and one of it was a hamburger. As a kid, hamburger always made me excited because we didn’t eat much of Western culture food back then, and hamburger was very different food than typical Japanese food my grandma made. (Now that I’m thinking, I wonder if my aunt taught my mom how to make a hamburger when she was visiting us from Michigan…My aunt’s story is here) And I remember when my mom made her hamburger, she always proudly said, “Here’s my secret sauce” and it added more excitement for me, and the word “Secret” made me proud of my mom, too. As I became a bit older, I learned what my mom’s secret sauce was. Can you guess what it was? It was laughable and a bit of disappointment at the same time. She used only two ingredients,

mixing Ketchup and Mayonnaise together. Yep. That’s all. She would mix them both in a small bowl while she cooked the hamburger, she’d put her “special secret sauce” on the burger buns, put the burger, lettuce, tomato and onion. That was my mom’s “original” recipe.

photo of a table spoon size mayonnaise & ketchup in a small flower shaped vessel
The Great Secret Sauce

I thought I had nothing in common between my mom and I for a long time, but one day, I caught myself getting ketchup and mayonnaise from the fridge while I was making egg salad sandwich. I grabbed it without thinking of anything, because that’s what I always used to make the sandwich. All of the sudden, I realized that I was unconsciously using my mom’s “secret sauce” for decades.


Cooking, is a funny thing. I don’t normally “meditate” in the morning, but my brain takes me to different places when I’m cooking, especially something repetitive that doesn’t require to think too much. Once, Aric told me that he felt like his mom and his grandmother were in the kitchen with him at the same time while he was making Pierogi, which was his mom’s recipe that also was inherited from her mom. So I think it’s not just me to believe in cooking has the power of reviving people who we miss in their dishes that they used to cook for us. It also brings back to the childhood memories, and reminds us things that slipped in our minds.

Color photo, a family with  two mid 20's boys and a mom making pierogi
Making Pierogi is a family tradition for the Bianchi's

Ketchup and Mayonnaise, that’s the only ingredients my mom used, but that was her “Secret sauce”. Only two ingredients, but have very special memory and meaning to me. I finally found the connection between my mom and I. My mom passed away when I was 19, but she was in the kitchen with me every time when I was making an egg salad sandwich. The secret sauce was keeping us connected in a very “special” way. I may also found the way to celebrate my own Mother’s day this year, and from now on….

a photo of a plate of hamburger, buns on the bottom right side, ketchup & mayo in a small blue vessel on the bottom left, lettuce tomato, onion, and pickles on the left upper side, with tater tots on the upper right
A hamburger with my mom's secret sauce

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