So, how does she do that??

Of all the things my mom is no longer able to do on her own, not being able to cook is probably her biggest disappointment.  In her day, she could have hosted a daily cooking show and never made the same thing twice (though the kitchen would never be as clean as on TV).

Just thinking about her apple pie makes me weak, though cheesecake was her specialty and she loved to experiment with different recipes.  She’d often make a veggie frittata for Friday dinner (no meat on Friday) by simply cleaning out the frig and it was always a hit (better than fish, which is probably the only thing she couldn’t cook well…..okay, fish and pork chops).  Her ravioli (from scratch) was a meal for celebration and cake decorating was her art.  I could do an entire blog listing foods I miss.

It has been years since she’s been alone at a stove due to safety issues, but when she stays at my house I like to encourage her to help me with the meals.  She has forgotten most of the recipes our family loved to eat, but I prompt her to try and remember how much of this or how long for that.  I did not take an interest in cooking back when she could have taught me so much, so now she usually sits nearby and I ask her recipe questions I already know the answers to, but we both enjoy the conversation.

When I was much younger, one recipe I did pay attention to was her spaghetti sauce and meat-a-balls.  I have never tweaked these recipes, knowing she learned from her own mother and on back through the generations.  You don’t mess with that!

So yesterday, there we were.  I am at the stove making sauce and meatballs.  Mom is at my dining room table leafing through a magazine.  She is tired and it is one of those days where she seems not to care what I am doing at the stove.  I don’t push it.

The sauce is simmering nicely and I’m just about ready to make the meatballs.  The house smells good!  And then…from behind, my mother says, “You didn’t put any sugar in that sauce.”  I look at her and shake my head.

Where did that come from?  I’d been busy for about a half hour and she’d been engrossed in her magazine (The National Enquirer, actually).  “When did you start paying attention?” I ask.

“You need a pinch of sugar.  Momma always said it takes away the acidity of the tomatoes.”

I have no idea how she knew.  With all I was doing in the kitchen and her looking at a magazine in the dining room, it seems impossible she kept track of what I added or not.  She was right though, I had forgotten the pinch of sugar.

If you have a favorite recipe from your mother (and you don’t mind sharing your secrets), please send it as a comment to the blog.  I’ll post one a week.  Bon appetit!


About hereisakiss

Daughter Writer Art's Educator
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10 Responses to So, how does she do that??

  1. threehappydesigners says:

    I never knew about the pinch of sugar. Looks like I’ve been a little off this whole time… I also try to never mess with the sauce recipe but I usually decide to make spaghetti too late in the day to let my sauce simmer for hours. Every time that happens I feel like Nonie is over my shoulder with a glare telling me that if I’m going to make sauce I better do it the right way. Its true though, I can always taste the difference.

  2. Victoria says:

    My mom was a horrible cook, almost always made the same seven meals every day each week that I can remember. Chicken ala king, meatloaf or “pigs in the blanket”, spaghetti, tuna noodle casserole, fish (Lake Erie perch or fish sticks) on Fridays, hamburgers or hotdogs on Saturdays and chicken on Sundays. But man could she bake, still does on rare occasions. She will be 90 in June. Like your mom’s, her apple pie was to die for and for that reason I learned to make a good pie crust and still do. I can’t stand premade ones. And her cookies. Chocolate no bakes are what she still makes. My sister Linda said she was going to make them for Valentine’s day. My family in Erie goes to visit every holiday including three of her five kids, about a dozen grandkids, twice that many great grandchildren, and now they’re working on yet another generation. Here is her “no bake” recipe:


    2 C sugar
    1/2 C margarine
    1/4 C milk
    1/4 C cocoa (unsweetened)
    1 t vanilla
    1/2 C smooth peanut butter
    3 C Quick Quaker oats

    Melt butter in saucepan, stir in chocolate and mix until it’s all brown. Stir in sugar and milk. Bring to a boil. Boil, without stirring for 3 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in peanut butter until melted. Add vanilla and stir until blended. Add oats 1 C at a time until thoroughly coated. Drop by the teaspoon onto waxed paper. Cool and eat!

    • hereisakiss says:

      Can’t wait to try this recipe. It sounds delicious (and easy). Thanks for sending it along. PS…..and I still can’t make a decent pie crust, but I do have the funniest recipe written down, as spoken to me by my mom. I’ll have to find it. Something to do with mixing the dough inside a Wonder Bread (had to be Wonder Bread) bag with your left foot up on the kitchen table chair (for leverage).

  3. Martha stepnowski says:

    I am always so jealous when I hear about italian food and cooking because when I grew up at the beach in old say brook the mozzicatos and the cancellieris were always
    making homemade pasta for dinner when I was having boiled daisy ham with cabbage. Italians just seem to know how to do it right. And your mom is listening for sure so don’t try to get away with anything. That “cookbook of a library” she had in her head is a big loss, but we lose them in stages, don’t we? At least she is still there close by as you cook, and now it’s just you giving as she takes what she can and offers what she will. Role reversals with some things for sure lost in the translation. At my mom’s last thanksgiving I kept giving her bowls of things to stir and she never commented on one thing she was handed. She just stirred and stirred and handed the bowl back as if to say,”I’m done. What else have you got for me?” But the food conversations were gone, and it was just she and me in the kitchen. Keep asking, Elizabeth, she may have more to give you yet.

  4. Jan Nielsen says:

    I love this story, Elizabeth. I don’t think I will ever make red sauce again without remembering this scene. Any chance you would share this recipe with your readers?

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