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!