I realize that a lot of people are celebrating their Moms today and rightfully so. I also realize that a lot of people are waxing poetically about the meals that their moms put before them — the Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving meals on the snowy white linens, the best china, the best, unlumpy gravy.
The fragrant and wonderful apple and cherry pies, the breads, cakes and muffins, the hearty soups and stews. mmmmmmmmm.
My mother was the ‘Mommy Dearest’ of the kitchen. That woman not only could not cook her way out of a boxed mix, she also made my kids sick on several occasions because she used to leave food out on the counters and then used to serve it up. I will not even try to count the number of times we had to stop by the side of the road on our way home from a meal at her house.
Chicago had Mrs. O’Leary and her cow. In our family, we had my mom.
Strangely enough, though, my father thought she was the Julia Child of our little universe because the women in HIS family were even…worse. And having eaten the chicken soup and flanken that my great aunties produced, I have to say that even my mom’s cooking was a step up.
How did we survive? Well, my mother was also a great appreciator of convenience foods. Now, she is no longer with us and would certainly not recognize all the hubbub and broohaha over eating local or worries about ingredients or chemicals. She was born in 1917 and survived the Influenza pandemic, the Great Depression, and WWII (and that in Glasgow, Scotland, which was the UK’s ship building center, so the Germans were bombing them all…the…time). My memories of her in the 1950s and 1960s were that there was not a bag, box, or can that she did not love. Any new food technology was grabbed up like a teenage girl mooning over the star football player. I remember her romance with TSP – textured soy protein. It was during a period when meat was very expensive but she thought this was amazing and wonderful – she put it in hamburgers, meatloaf, etc. (and so did your folks, too if you ate Hamburger Helper(tm). She also loved frozen anything, cake and muffin mixes, you name it. Now, she was not uncreative; I recall a vacation at the beach where we were holed up in the cottage in a mild hurricane, huddled over the battery operated radio and the Scrabble(tm) board and she managed to turn out all sorts of goodies with whatever she had, thrown together with the cake and muffin mixes. Gourmet, they were not – but when the wind and the rain are howling outside and mutiny is in the air, cookies made from lemon cake mix is a big deal, believe me.
On the other hand, however, we never ate a cooked vegetable that was actually green. I didn’t learn about that until after I was married. We could probably have all gummed our veggies without teeth from the overcooking – it’s amazing we all got any vitamins with our meals at all.
But, from the basic job of getting us grown and out of the house, she did her job and did it well. And today’s your day, Mom — wherever you are, I hope you are being served up your favorite meal of tuna wiggle, with green beans and French’s onions(tm) out of the can. Bon Appetit!