Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Like Mother Used to Make

You'd never find my mother making creme brulée or Beef Wellington or attempting to roll sushi. She was not an adventurous cook, but she was a wonderful cook. She cooked mostly good old amurrican food, but did it beautifully and some things I have never been able to duplicate (though (can make creme brulée!)

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She was a meat-and-potatoes cook. "Adventurous" was cooking rice. She was also big on things like spaghetti and lasagna. My father loved Italian food and often said he felt he had Italian blood (though he was of Irish and German descent). Most of the "unusual" Italian food I remember eating was made by my father, who liked to cook from time to time. I still remember his calzone, and haven't had another one as good since. When it came to pizza, though, we would order from a store. I don't know if they delivered, but my father would always go and pick it up. We usually had anchovies on our pizza, which I liked then and occasionally like now (though my preference is Italian sausage and mushrooms).

I was thinking about my mother's cooking today because of a couple of odd things she made for us. We had unusual things when my father was out of town (several days a week). Karen and I loved pineapple salad. She would put a couple of rings of pineapple on a bed of lettuce (I usually didn't eat the lettuce...not my favorite food) and then make a dressing of pineapple juice mixed with peanut butter. I loved it. Still do. And every now and then I make it for myself today.

The other weird thing I remember was pancakes with pork gravy. I remember her talking about how much she loved pancakes with pork gravy when she was a kid and I begged her to make it for me. So she did. In truth, I didn't like it all that much, but I raved about how good it was. I guess she could tell I was trying to make her feel good because she never made that breakfast for me again, though I asked for it several times.

My cousin Peach was always asking her for her recipe for meatloaf, which my mother could never share because she claims she never made it the same way twice. She just made it by mixing ground beef with whatever vegetables were left over in the refrigerator.

I have never been able to duplicate her pot roast. It had a mild spicy flavor and was so tender. I remember she cooked it in the Dutch oven for hours. I've tried many times to make it the way she did, but it never comes out right. I can make you a 7 course gourmet Chinese meal, but I can't make a post roast to suit me!

Sadly, she has now forgotten all those recipes. She can't even remember how to make her signature potato salad, and I find her stuffed eggs (which she is always asked to take to parties) to be too salty to suit my taste.

It would have been easy to pass along those recipes to me because they were all in one big cookbook which was pre-printed, but had her handwritten recipes in them too. But in one of those damn Virgo moves, she decided she wasn't going to cook any more and threw the thing away, without asking me if I wanted it. I wanted it!!!

I do OK in the kitchen, when I want to, but if I had to assemble a batch of "family favorite recipes" I would be hard pressed to do it. I don't think there were any favorites. There are a couple of recipes Walt likes (Burgundy beef balls is one of them), but I don't think there is any recipe that my kids ask me to make because they have good memories about it. They would probably have more memorable memories of my cooking if I had, like my mother, stuck to a few simple, but very good, recipes.


l'empress said...

My mother cooked wonderful things -- some of which I could do -- but was never able to give you a recipe. (Which might explain why her cakes weren't great. For cakes, you do have to measure.) But she had constraints, including cost and kashruth, that I didn't have to the same degree. (You can still hear my daughters echo, "learn to eat the specials."

If anything using mayonnaise seems too salty, try another mayo that isn't Hellman's. I know, that's heresy, but I did a reasonable amount of research when I began cooking for myself. (Classic recipes vary from 1/4 teaspoon to a whole teaspoon.) Hellman's is the high-end of salt in mayonnaise.

Bev Sykes said...

I don't think the mayo is the problem. i make my stuffed eggs with Best Foods (Hellmans) and they are fine. I think my mother must add additional salt.

Mary Z said...

Neither my mother nor John's mother were particularly adventuresome cooks. I don't remember anything special that either one ever cooked. And I had to learn from a cookbook everything I cooked when I got married.

I guess our kids would say that my specialities are lasagna, chili, split pea soup, and Thanksgiving dinner. But I never do anything really unusual like creme brulee or sushi.

Indigo said...

I would never want to try pancakes with pork gravy, yuck. I don't think any of my mom's recipes are written down, but my husband writes every single recipe down that he has an interest in making. He has about five leatherbound notebooks that they are written in, and there is no organization to it, just one right after the other. I keep telling him that he should type them into a computer program so he can pull them up easily, but he likes his way.

I have a few written down, but they are the tried and true stuff, everything else I either wing or look up online.