The first thing I remember cooking for my mom was French toast. I had to climb up on the kitchen counter in order to reach the bread bag on top of the fridge, pulling out two slices of Roman Meal and dropping them in the toaster. While the coils turned from charcoal gray to glowing orange, I stirred together about a half-dozen eggs and a cup or so of milk. When two perfectly browned toast slices popped up I submerged them in eggy goop and let them get good and soaked. I fried them up in butter on our cast-iron skillet and arranged the four irregular triangles on a plate with plenty of butter, powdered sugar and syrup. Mom was still in bed when I brought up her breakfast. She was surprised and delighted by my presentations and asked me all about how I'd done it—she was particularly interested in the part about toasting the bread first. How was I supposed to know French toast wasn't actually toasted in the toaster? But she noted some small improvement in the final product's texture and seemed impressed. Maybe she was pretending; maybe the toast was terrible. Nevertheless, I basked in her approval all morning. It's 20 years later now and I do a lot of cooking for my mom when we're together but her stamp of approval still brings up the same blush of pride.