My Mom was a really good cook. So were my Grandmas. And I’m sure it went down through the generations. You might have thought I would have acquired some finesse from them …learned a few “tricks of the trade”…perfected a “special” dish, or even better an entire meal. In Taste of Home Magazine, they even have an entire 2 page “spread” called “My Mom’s Best Meal”. It’s doubtful my children will ever send in an entry for their Mom’s best – or even mediocre – meal.
It’s not that I’m totally inept in the kitchen. Give me a tube of crescent rolls and a can of cherry pie filling and “voila” – a danish. I even mix up some confectioners sugar and water and make a glaze if I really want to be fancy. A few “Grands” biscuits, cinnamon, sugar, brown sugar and butter – lots of butter – and there you have it – an exquisite Monkey Bread. You get the idea, right? Providing those as church Fellowship goodies, I receive high praise for my cooking abilities. I rarely tell them how little cooking was really involved.
I’m always collecting recipes and own hundreds of cookbooks, but when it comes to cooking meals (and if I cook it’s only during the winter when there’s nothing else to do, as the snow drifts higher and the winds blow ferociously). My repertoire then consists of goulash, stew, pot roast (when we can afford marked down meat chunks), and a simple hamburg gravy with mashed potatoes. Sometimes I get adventurous and add peas and corn. Not always though. I don’t want my husband to have high expectations in the weeks to come.
I’ve come to believe that my major problem is Time Management. Managing time for a person with OCD/ADD can be a challenge. I tend to start things and then my mind gets diverted elsewhere. Time flies by and when 5 pm or so rolls around, I realize even if I wanted to cook, I haven’t defrosted anything. Oh well. Luckily my husband cooks for himself, and I like cereal, salads and leftovers.
Ask my family and they will regale you with stories of my past misadventures with family meals – usually family holiday meals. Once I was still planning my menu for a 9:30 a.m. brunch at 11 p.m. the night before. Then I began cooking. At about 1:30, even the dog gave up on me and went to bed. So after preparing 13 main dishes, 3 juices, a fruit salad platter, numerous muffins and sweet treats, I had completed the aforementioned meal. Cookbooks were strewn about, dirty dishes were stacked in every available space in the kitchen area. The family had arrived on time, but of course I wasn’t yet finished cooking all the food. Daughters-in-law tried to help, but by that time, there was no way to make up for lost time. My son went outside, knowing there would be plenty of time to get his car washed before the meal was on the table. But not to worry, at 11 a.m. (or was it closer to 11:30 – at that point, who’s counting, right), I finally put the food on the overloaded table and declared the meal ready. Most by then had cheated and eaten Easter candy which I’m sure dampened their ravenous appetites. I forgot to mention..there were only 10-12 adults and some little grandkids who ate little or nothing (it may have been close to naptime for some of them). Not a “dent” was made in the mountains of food, And as usual I complained they didn’t eat hardly anything after I spent all those hours preparing the meal for them.
Once again, I had obsessed about celebrating the perfect Martha Stewart holiday. I would prepare a meal comparable to the seemingly effortless ones my relatives “set out”. Only thing was…it wasn’t comparable, I was exhausted and bitchy after staying up all night cooking and I was hurt there were so many leftovers and nobody would take any “off my hands”.
So now depending on the holiday, we eat at my daughter’s or my son’s home. My daughter in particular follows in her grandmother’s and great grandmother’s recipes making many delicious dishes (and always having huge amounts of leftovers). When at my son’s, meals are always on time, warm and tasty. Strangely enough, often my husband and I are the last ones to arrive … particularly unusual because we live down the driveway maybe 500-600 feet. I’m still rushing around waiting to take those “danish” and Monkey bread previously mentioned out of the oven.
I, on the other hand, now excel at soups. Throw everything in a pot (did you know leftover spaghetti and meatballs can make a great soup), keep adding numerous vegetables and other ingredients until the soup pot is nearly filled to the top, let it simmer and it always turns out great..hot and comforting. No recipe required. Leftovers? Either I eat them for a week, give them to my kids who live nearby, if they will take them “off my hands”, or take them to share at church. Last option…give them to the dogs at about Day 6.
But standing in that kitchen, I’m now calm. I feel the closeness of those ancestors who cooked at their stoves before me. I can see my Mom at her stove making creamy ham and potato soup or amazing beef barley, chicken and biscuits, huge homemade cinnamon rolls oozing with icing, Swiss steak, pot roast. The list goes on and on. Even her soups I can’t seem to duplicate…nothing is as good as my Mom made. But, no matter. .. the soup steams and bubbles, and I feel myself visibly relax. I smile. The soup is good… the memories even better.