|One of MD's "go-to" cookbooks|
Image courtesy of Misprinted Pages
Until I was twelve or so, my parents employed a revolving door of domestics whose primary responsibility was to prepare and serve our family's meals. MD would supervise them, plan the menus, and do much of the shopping, but she gladly surrendered to them what she considered to be the drudgery of their occupation.
Photograph courtesy of TV Guide
I remember the excitement and anticipation I felt when a new cook would join our household, as the prospect of learning her specialties was appealing: Who knew what tasty dishes we would come to enjoy? Would there be cakes and cookies, too?
|"Nothin' says lovin' like somethin' in the oven . . ."|
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images
When the cook was from England, as we once had, we dined on a steady diet of roasts, puddings, and pies. When she was from South America, such as the nefarious Marta (the subject of a previous series of mine), we encountered strange vegetables and indeterminate meat dishes (that is, until my father put his foot down, demanding that he be served "real food"). And if she was African-American (as several of them were), we happily tucked into fried chicken, corn bread, and other Southern staples. MD generally gave the women who cooked for us a fairly free rein, so long as the meals they prepared and served were balanced across the primary food groups.
|The cover of the 1964 edition of Joy of Cooking,|
MD's default cookbook
But there were times when we didn't have someone cooking for us, and my mother would resignedly pick up such responsibilities. That invariably meant our meals would take a turn for the worse. If it didn't come in a can or jar or carton or box or frozen package, it was unlikely to make an appearance on our dining room table when MD manned the stove in the 1960s. She did pride herself in buying only best-quality meats, which she invariably broiled, but fish was a rarely served. We would sometimes get fresh vegetables instead of frozen ones.
|Is there any other kind?|
Image courtesy of Sunburst Kisses Rowena
MD's idea of a salad started and ended with iceberg lettuce tossed with Good Seasons carafe-made dressing. She was not a baker. I don't remember her ever making a cake when I was growing up, although I do have a dim memory of baking Christmas sugar cookies with her and my sisters. Once.
|This is not a childhood memory that resonates with me|
Image courtesy of Pintarest
The only baking I recall that MD did with any regularity was of potatoes or squash, and chicken. She loved butter and half & half, and she used them both liberally.
|MD's well-used copy of Joy of Cooking|
owned by my dear sister Camilla
Photograph courtesy of same
When it came to seasonings, a dash of ginger powder or nutmeg was about as adventuresome as MD would get. Thoroughly rinsed spaghetti with pressure-cooker made tomato sauce and Kraft Parmesan Cheese was considered ethnic in the Darling household, and was—not surprisingly—served infrequently (and only when my father was out for the evening, as he considered it nursery food).
|This was not MD's idea of "fun"|
Photograph courtesy of the Daily Green
But that all started to change in the late 1960s. Two things happened. First, my mother took over, once and for all, the cooking in our house. By then it was just me and my sister Hermione left at home (Camilla had by then graduated from college, and Frecky was away at boarding school), and we no longer needed the level of domestic support our once-larger family had required. Second, the food revolution had begun in this country, and people were realizing that there was more to be had than the packaged and processed food that filled supermarkets' shelves.
|The interior of a Giant supermarket in Rockville, Maryland, in the 1960s.|
MD shopped in a similar Giant on Wisconsin Avenue
in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C.
Photograph courtesy of LIFE Images
|MD owned a copy of this cookbook.|
I think she may have used it . . . once or twice
Photograph courtesy of Etsy
But MD never became an accomplished or inventive cook, as she might have under different circumstances, because shortly thereafter my parents' marriage sputtered to an exhausted end, as did what had once been family dinners. Within a year or two I left for Saint Grottlesex, and that was pretty much the end of my sharing home-cooked meals with MD, at least with any regularity. Shortly after I graduated from college MD moved into a life-care retirement center, where she—much to her relief—gave up cooking, once and for all.
|Proust may have had his Madeleines,|
but nothing evokes memories of
Reggie's childhood like frozen peas . . .
Image courtesy of Vintage American Advertisements
Even though MD was, in retrospect, an indifferent cook at best, when I was a little boy I enjoyed the meals she prepared for my family. I loved the frozen peas, canned corned beef hash, and Betty Crocker® Au Gratin potatoes that were in her regular rotation.
|A Darling household favorite!|
Image courtesy of General Mills
It was only after I left home for boarding school and then college that I came to appreciate that one's cooking (and eating) horizons could stretch far beyond the extremely basic meals that MD had fed us. MD was very much the product of her class and times, and I bear her no ill will for her limited cooking skills. I certainly appreciate that getting meals on the table for one's family, day in and day out, isn't necessarily everyone's idea of creative heaven.
But I have to say, Dear Reader, that I am most grateful we have upped our food game in the intervening years here in America. I attribute that to the back-to-the-earth/locavore food movement explosion, the incredible advances made in food distribution, and the broad acceptance and availability today of food, spices, and cooking practices brought to these shores from distant lands and cultures that were but the subject of stories in National Geographic to most Americans when I was a child.
And I think this would have suited MD just fine.
Tell me, was (or is) your mother a good cook? Do you cook differently from the way she did when you were growing up?
Oh my! This is a subject dear to my heart. My mother worked part time in a law office and she loved to cook. She was known in our suburban neighbourhood as a daring and inventive cook. She had dinner parties for dozens and fed them all herself. She really was ahead of her time.ReplyDelete
She was half Greek and loved lamb and all the traditional Greek dishes, but my father would not eat anything "weird" and I'm ashamed to say I was a picky eater as a child (but not any more).
But she really shone when it came to baking. We had an enormous farmhouse table with many leaves and she would spend days on end at Christmas baking. I would come home from school and the table would be COVERED with tins of goodies all fresh from the oven. Then she would say to me, "Would you be my taster and see if it is all okay?" and I would take one thing from every tin and try it.
I inherited many of her books and also a binder of recipes that she typed out herself and wrote notes in the margins. Once after she died I took the binder out to find a recipe for something I wanted to make and when I opened it and saw her writing, I knew finally that she was gone forever, and I sank to the floor and had a good cry,
Fun post RD! Love all the vintage images you found, so evocative. Yes, my dear mother was and still is a fabulous cook. She is Southern, and she knew Paula Deen's family when she was growing up, in South Georgia. She was "Miss Peanut 1952" LOL! Her biscuits are to die for, and breakfast is not to be believed,the country ham, the fig preserves, the eggs, the grits, and the hot gravy...GAWD! So good! She used to make things like salmon croquettes with corn bread. Always served with very cold iced tea, not too sweet. We had a cook when I was very young, but I started calling her "Mother" and that was the end of her! Thanks for this great and amusing story from your home life.ReplyDelete
Good morning Reggie, firstly let me say how much I enjoy reading your blog. I just love learning all about your life and growing up in the USA, so very different from mine here in Australia. My mother was a woeful cook. Her breakfasts were a choice of weetbix or cornflakes(cornies if your an Aussie) lunch was a vegemite sandwich and if she wanted to go gourmet a slice of kraft cheese from the box was added. Dinner then was a savoury mince, and I use that term loosely. Savoury mince consisted of ground beef pan fried (no garlic or onion) a little gravox added and then a half packet of frozen peas. If mother wanted to go that extra mile a side order of tomato sauce(ketchup to you). Oh yes RD there were others out there that suffered worse at the hands of MD than you, I think. It was a great relief to my brother and I when our parents decided to go their own ways and my father, brother and I went to live with our grandparents. My grandparents were great gardeners and we always had a veggie patch filled with what ever fruits and vegetables were in season. So RD our meals went from very basic to gourmet(well to us anyway). Lots of roasts, Barbeques(we call them Barbies)and casseroles. Our neighbours either side of us were Italian and Greek, so my grandmother was always trying something new. Two things I could never try was smoked haddock and the other was tripe. These dishes to this day turn my stomach. Anyway that's my 2cents worth. Thanks again for sharing on your blog. I do enjoy reading about your childhood and also about your day to day life as well. Have a lovely Sunday. Tracey.ReplyDelete
Hello Reggie, My memories of eating growing up are quite different. My mother is a superb cook in a family of wonderful cooks. To this day, I dislike most packaged and commercial foods, and when I started living on my own, I had to learn some cooking in self-defense, constantly calling my mother for recipes and cooking tips.ReplyDelete
In many other ways my mother was part of the same world as yours. Exotic dishes were rare; spices, except for a few, tended to ossify in the cans, and frozen vegetables were common. I too have fond memories of those Birdseye peas, as well as mixed vegetables. In Taiwan, frozen mixed vegetables, exactly like the American ones, are ubiquitous and often are the only frozen vegetable available in supermarkets. They are absolutely required in fried rice.
I make a number of the dishes I grew up with, and I have developed a few specialties of my own, such as gumbo and other spicy dishes which were not part of my mother's repertoire.
--Road to Parnassus
Dear Parnassas, How bizarre it must be to see the frozen mixed vegetables we knew as children here in the States in the frozen food aisles of Taiwan. And how fortunate you were to have a mother who was a superb cook. My dear sister Camilla is a wonderful cook, and I learned a lot from her. ReggieDelete
My Smith-graduate mother took a completely different route. Given that she felt her education and standing should mean she would be the best possible housewife, she cooked like crazy. Knew nothing about it when she married in 1955 - having been brought up by maids, a nanny, and a cook. But it became a badge of honor for her, such that she was the first in her crowd to buy a wok, in the early 1970s.ReplyDelete
All of her children picked up the foodie flag, as it turned out.
Dear LPC: It is interesting to learn how our mothers, both of whom were raised in privilege, responded to their housewifery challenges. MD always considered herself to be something of a rebel, being a Sarah Lawrence girl, and she would, I believe, have preferred a more bohemian route than what she dutifully signed on for before she realized she had other options available to her. I believe her life would have taken a very different course had she been born thirty years later... RDDelete
If a menu rotation existed for my mother's kitchen I am unaware, however I do recall Chicken and yellow rice, Spaghetti and meatballs, Pork lion roast served with mashed potato, gravy of course. Left over pork roast allowed for chow mein or chop suey some stir fry dish (my parents owned a Wok) enchiladas, tacos, salads were served often with a vinaigrette dressing, Turkey tetrazini, - flounder florentine, ---My father had a grill with a rotisserie attachment and I can recall the steady whir as the device strained to roast the dinner entree. Fish was served often broiled, stuffed and baked --my father did contribute to the culinary arts as he would prepare conch chowder, my mother used a pressure cooker for meal preparation of chicken fricasse, these meals as I recall took some time to create and I suppose that is why my 83 year old mother resorts to frozen items. I do live in the same town and weekly bring her over something to liven up her diet. Today I prepared an omlette filled with jullianed ham sauted mushrooms, onion, and smoked dried tomato bits served on a spinach tortilla wrap with a side of smashed fingerling potato -- last week I broiled salmon and brought her over a serving. I have a grill pan to prepare chicken paillard to serve with a salad. tomorrow I plan to bake spinach spanikopita triangles . Another meal I recall if there was left over sirloin or perhaps it was chuck anyway it would be served as teriyaki where is my spell check here let me consult a cookbook -- pilafs, bouquet garni words of my childhood. A chafing dish was used for cherries jubuliee crepes suzette . More food memories from our family camping vacations include cooking over a fire and a camp stove. One lunch stop at a way side table with a playground was a delicious ham sandwich with lettuce was visited by a bee. much to my consternation. To this day I collect cookbooks and I am willing to try new recipes but homemade marshmellows no doubt quite tasty to me empty calories -- however the popcorn balls I brought to the fourth grade cast party of the Nutcracker were such fun to make. as were the cakes for the carnival cake walk. If only I knew about the pink ombre layer cake back then.....ReplyDelete
Dear Anon, you are a thoughtful and caring offspring to bring your mother such wonderful meals. She is, indeed, fortunate to have you in her life! ReggieDelete
My mother was rather health conscious and all our meals were balanced down to the last nutrient. We liked most of the regular dishes although sometimes Mother could go a bit far and when she acquired the "Moosewood Cookbook" things became a little too healthy. The carrot soup was the worst. We all complained bitterly about it. Then one night at dinner featuring the dreaded soup, our normally reclusive cockatiel Captain Bruce leaped from his cage with a squawk, flew down to the dining table, hopped along past the pepper, jumped into my mothers carrot soup and quickly flew back to his cage. This was, appropriately I think, taken as a sign and the soup never made another appearance.
We never knew why he did it, but I suspect that, having no children of his own, he was less immune to our whining and we just got on his last bird nerve.
Vanessa, thank you for this hilarious story of your family's pet cockatiel's editorializing on your mother's carrot soup! I wish I had been there. I own a copy of the "Moosewood Cookbook," and have enjoyed cooking from it several times. One is well served if one steers clear from its most extreme oaty/groaty recipes, I think. Thank you, ReggieDelete
My mother wasn't a bad cook, just unimaginative. My father was English, so he often prepared the foods of his childhood, which were generally cooked to within an inch of their lives - especially meat and veg. When my parents would travel, they left us in the care of an Englishwoman who would be preceded by a large crate of food, as if the mid-Atlantic states weren't capable of providing for us. We also had an African-American maid, Bernadine, who co-conspired with our Mrs. White to keep us in line. We loved it when she cooked for us!ReplyDelete
The one thing we never ate was a curry. My father had been in India for a long time, and just couldn't bear curry. So we saved it for when the parents weren't there.
Hello PD: MD adored curried chicken salad (with raisins), which was a ladies' lunch staple in our house. I love it to this day, myself! RDDelete
....one more thing:ReplyDelete
One of my favorite 'food memories' is our winter breakfasts. When it was cold outside we had hot cereal for breakfast. It was a rule for schooldays. Cream of Wheat, oatmeal, Maypo, or Wheateena. We always had fruit, whole wheat toast, and oj. The table was always set and we always ate together.
If we were having Cream of Wheat we children would take turns choosing a food coloring to add.
As an adult I think an empty kitchen in the morning is lonely and cold
Hello Vanessa: I'm afraid MD was at her least inspired at breakfast. Cold cereal and a glass of orange juice was about all she could muster for me and my siblings, regardless of season. In the winter I longed for a hot breakfast, but in vain when MD was at the helm, I'm afraid. RDDelete
I had not thought of Peg Bracken in many, many years! I don't know about the recipes, but I am sure the Hilary Knight (of Eloise fame) illustrations are fantastic!ReplyDelete
Hello JJT: Interestingly as I researched this post I learned that over 8 million copies of Ms. Bracken's books sold. They were a sensation in the day (her first was published in 1960). I would love to see Mr. Knight's illustrations in the book, too. Coincidentally I spent a delightful hour just last night leafing through a number of his Eloise books. His illustrations are charming, indeed!Delete
You have pretty much described my dear mother's cooking. It was a blessing to her and the family as Stouffer's frozen foods became available.ReplyDelete
Hello Anon: Thank you for bringing up Stouffer's. Please see my reply to Anon 10:20 below, who also mentioned it (I'm working my way replying from the bottom up here...). Thanks, ReggieDelete
I giggled reaading your post and the comments. Your stories of your mother took me back to that world where my mother and the mothers of my friends were determined to try every new packaged food product that was supposed to make their lives easier. There were only a couple I knew of who made their own bread, cooked from scratch, and never used a cake mix. We thought they were strange. Two decades later we would have called them Earth Mothers but in those days it was whispered that they might be communists. Didn't even shave their legs. Never could understand why they wanted to make big loaves of dark bread. At that time canned corned beef hash was my favorite treat of all, with chipped beef gravy over toast the second. Thank goodness Julia and James Beard and all the others came along and people started cooking again. Thanks, your memories of your mother are always delightful. I get a kick out of her.ReplyDelete
Hello Dewena Callis: Thank you for your comment. I am so glad that you brought up chipped beef on toast! That was also a great favorite of MD's, and I loved it as a child. Just writing about it here makes me want to run out and get a jar of chipped beef and whip up a batch of it! Thank you, ReggieDelete
Oh the Joy of Cooking and The Boston Cookbook my mother's bibles bought to Australia with her in the 1950s. As a Canadian married to an Australian, she did bring a bit of North America into the food department.ReplyDelete
I think my mother tried harder than I do but I know day in day out cooking bored her, hence my previous disparaging comments about burnt chops.
Come to think of it it bores me too, but I'm very appreciative of the efforts of others.
Hello SMR -- thanks for your comment. I think the world is broken down into two types of cooks: those who truly enjoy doing it and those who do it because the have to. I must admit, I fall into the latter category, and would be perfectly happy to surrender cooking in its entirety (and the cleanup, too) to someone else. In our house I do some of the cooking (the basic kind, since Boy is a much better cook than I am and enjoys it, too). But I do get left with the lion's share of the cleanup! ReggieDelete
It's funny I assumed that the inability to cook was a Yankee trait... bland, boiled everything seemed to run in the family. My grandmother was an independent feminist type, who found herself married to Princeton engineer/professor, and hence my mother never learned to cook, either. Growing up in Southern California where fresh food was readily available, I recall a steady stream of nannies who also did not cook, and recipes from Sunset Magazine that usually involving combinations of S&H canned beans and canned chopped black olives and far too much melted cheese and seasoned salt. When Hamburger Helper was invented it was a real boon in our house. Thank goodness my father (Princeton 1952, which is how they met) was a whiz at the BBQ and grilled swordfish was his specialty.. on Sundays it was his day to cook and we took full advantage or our beach front home and the fresh seafood it afforded.ReplyDelete
Hello Lynne: I am so glad that you bring the Sunset Magazine perspective here. I was hoping someone would! By the time MD had taken up the cooking mantle, "California-style" cooking was making inroads into the East, and by the 1970s nachos had even made an appearance in MD's kitchen (made by me and my sister Hermione -- MD didn't care for them, much). Try as I might as a boy, I could not pursuade MD to buy Hamburger Helper, which she seadfastly refused. She did relent, once, and agreed to buy a box of Shake 'N Bake. ReggieDelete
I've been an avid reader for quite a while and this is my first comment. My mother was (and still is) an excellent cook. As were her mother and aunt. Canned anything was abhorred though frozen vegetables were tolerated. My father's mother, who was of German extraction would constantly make comments about the 'French' influence of my mother's cooking. When I insisted on making gravy from scratch at a Thanksgiving hosted by said grandmother, she threw up her hands in despair saying I was 'fancy' and that jarred gravy was just as good!(she did however, put some on the table just in case mine 'didn't turn out'!) Though Americans, my siblings and I grew up in The Netherlands and the bucolic English countryside. We went to boarding schools and when home, would ask our mother to make things like liver and bacon, Lancashire Hotpot and rice pudding. We were always disappointed that her meals didn't taste like the ones at school! My parents were wise enough to take us on interesting European family holidays and because fast food restaurants did not exist in the '70s, we were exposed to and expected to eat local fare. We delighted in eating escargot, squid, fish and very fresh vegetables and fruits. I now live in Portland, Maine, where I am lucky enough to feast on lobster (when I have the courage to cook it) and frequent the excellent locally owned food shops in the area.ReplyDelete
p.s. Mom once made a 'nettle soup' as some sort of food for her plants and my father, who loved to investigate what was bubbling away on the stove, ALMOST ate some!
Hello Anne, Thank you for your comment, and welcome! It sounds as if you (most fortunately) had a global culinary tour growing up. I loved the food served at the English boarding school I attended one year as an exchange student, where I came across for the first time Spotted Dick, steak and kidney pie, and heavy cream and canned mandarin orange sections on "French" vanilla ice cream. Rgds, ReggieDelete
My mother collected cookbooks, but was not a good cook. She lived in fear of food poisoning, so she overcooked everything. My maternal grandmother was a great cook and I was fortunate to be able to learn from her.ReplyDelete
Hello DocP: There is little less appealing than to be confronted with a plate of overcooked food. I'm glad your grandmother was able to demonstrate that needn't be your fate in life! Thanks, RDDelete
I never ate anything my mother cooked with the exception of Christmas goodies until I was a teenager. We had a cook that was with us before I was born and moved away as I hit the teen years. Mother decided not to rehire a cook, that she could do it herself, and we paid the price for a few years. Then, gradually, she got better and better. She also rid our diet of fried foods because my father had sugar issues. She mastered baked chicken, and I still can't figure out how to do it like she did. It was the best I've ever eaten. We had fresh vegetables for the most part. No casseroles except congealed salads if you count that as a casserole, and those were served for holidays and parties.ReplyDelete
Hello Elizabeth: It sounds as if our mothers were on the same trajectory -- except yours fortunately was more up to the task than MD was subsequent to picking up the cooking mantle. I wonder, though, whether if MD's cooking would have improved over time had her marriage not fallen apart, and she had a husband to cook for. I suspect it might have. Thank you -- ReggieDelete
P.S. Someone above reminded me about Stouffer's which could be found on our table on any given day.ReplyDelete
Hello Anon: Stouffer's frozen foods were a great mainstay of MD's post-children-rearing years, and something she would serve to me with some regularity after my older siblings had gone off, when she and I frequently found ourselves alone together at home during dinner. The macaroni and cheese was a particular favorite of both of ours. ReggieDelete
My mother was not a good cook at all and I have become a very adventurous foodie along with my husband. We both grew up eating the foods that you have mentioned. Despite my love for interesting food, I am exhausted from my domestic chores and art career. I find a good ol'box of au gratin potatoes a welcome sight and enjoy the nostalgia in them.ReplyDelete
I have not had canned corned beef hash since I was a kid and now suddenly crave that slightly revolting stuff.
Hello Kerry, Thank you for your comment. It's interesting -- I have since been craving some of MD's favorites mentioned here. In particular canned corn beef hash, served with a poached egg on top of it, and a liberal application of ktechup! ReggieDelete
Now that I have been cooking for many years myself and a lover of interesting ways to prepare standard fare, I have come to realize more than ever how lucky I was that my mother was such a great cook. Many women in the South would spend summers canning and freezing vegetables for the winter and these items were often kept for special occasions like the holidays. Outside of cooking with salt pork seasonings, my mother had a fairly small collection of herbs and spices unlike those that fill my own shelves today. I loved her chicken, fried cornbread cakes, turnip and collard greens and the mashed potatoes which she whipped to perfection. To top that off there was banana pudding or chocolate pie for desert. I cook a variety of foods today that my mother was not exposed to or perhaps chose not to include in our daily fare, but I can assure you that nothing would make me happier than to hear her whistling in the kitchen again and to taste one of her special Sunday dinners.ReplyDelete
Hello Anon: Thank you for your comment, and what a lovely recollection you've shared with us about your mother's cooking. When MD made dessert, which was infrequently, she too turned to pudding (Jello, of course) and also canned fruit in syrup. I would enjoy the opportunity to share a meal with MD again, under any circumstances. RDDelete
Don't sell MD short for in those days that was pretty much the norm in most households.
When we came to this country in the early l960's my mother was ecstatic to discover Sara Lee and Betty Crocker. The Joy Of Cooking was the gourmet cookbook of the day. The New York Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne) didn't come out until I was married (1969)and Julia had just started to be known. Remember the Galloping Gourmet? or the A&P? we used to love their coconut cupcakes!
If you think about it, the war had ended a relatively short time before and package foods were the luxury. Wine? In this country that didn't come about until the late 60's with the Gallos (yuck) red, white and pink (in jugs!)
When I was growing up we also had a cook and mothers didn't venture into the kitchen except before a dinner party to make the dessert. That was their domain and the only thing they knew how to make. Mother's specialty was Floating Islands until we had to beg her to stop making it. We really were at the mercy of the cooks and to have a good one was like owning the Hope Diamond. Luckily my grandmother on my mothers side was a real gourmet and we were blessed she passed it on down. My father who, like you, was sent to boarding school at an early age loved nothing better than peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
We have really come a long way in the past 50 years and are blessed to have all the resources available to us that our parents didn't have. Yet, nobody wants to cook anymore...go figure.
I loved this post, you've brought back so many happy memories of bad food!
Hello Roxie: I wasn't trying to be too hard on MD. As I wrote, I loved (most of) the food she made when I was a boy. You raise an interesting point: packaged, quick-prepare foods were a wonderful advancement for our mothers' generation, and considered a modern, and tasty convenience. MD certainly enjoyed eating delicious food, and she enjoyed going out to eat, too. She just didn't care for cooking, much. ReggieDelete
My mother has always viewed cooking as a chore. But like most non-cooks, she has one or two tricks up her sleeve. She makes the best cream tuna on toast and a mean BLT.ReplyDelete
Hello Merry Wife: MD adored BLTs, and made very tasty ones, too. Thx -- ReggieDelete
Funny you should ask. My Mother detested Julia Child as at the time products such as "Hamburger Helper", "Tang", and "Sloppy Jo's" and other easy meals were introduced. Can you imagine wrangling supper for 7 hungry mouths? We had loads of good produce from my father's green market which is still thriving since 1945 - and my Mother taught us how to make home made pie crust, fried chicken in a cast iron skillet, home made stock, dumplings, the best green beans,,,,,and on and on. When we asked what's for dinner she would say "Frog's hearts on toast" -ReplyDelete
My Mother at 85 still cooks and although she is only a 100 lbs., she can eat.
I think there is nothing like a good appetite to inspire....bon appetite as Julia would quip.
Oh yes, very reminiscent of our house but my mother never progressed to the status of good cook. She grew up with help and never embraced food as much more than sustenance. She did, however, have a nasty sweet tooth and made a great molasses cookie and spice cake!ReplyDelete
That same giant on Wisconsin Ave is about to be torn down. It was supposed to happen last Thursday (this is after a 10 yr long debate over this site with neighbors fighting future development) but has apparently been delayed yet again. It's going to become a new larger supermarket with condos and apartments above and no more parking lot but townhouses behind. A sign of the times.ReplyDelete
Oh wow what news.. It's such a great photo-I grew up shopping at the Giant in Fairfax at Kamp Washington. Still remember the pink flecked floors.Delete
No parking lot..of course!
My brother and I were fortunate to grow up in a home where both parents were excellent cooks. We were a Chinese American household so one never knew what would be served, but it was always delicious.
Two memories stand out...my father worked for a large NYC bank and frequently invited collegues for dinner. One summer we hosted a steady stream of Japanese bankers from Tokyo. For some reason, my mother's standard summer offering included barbecued chicken, potato salad and blueberry pie. Our guests ate with evident enjoyment. In fact, they returned the hospitality by taking my parents to the late, great Lutece on several occasions.
As much as we loved home cooking, our favorite dinner choice when my parents dined out, were Mrs. Paul's Fish Sticks, Swanson's Chicken Pot Pies and Green Giant Niblets corn in the can. To this day, I still love Niblets. Go figure.
What I find frustratingly ironic is that while we have "upped our game" in terms of food we no longer have as much time to enjoy it. Whereas in our parents' generation, there was greater time available both to prepare and to eat what limited options were on offer.ReplyDelete
My mother was a decent New England cook in the old style -- pot roasts and stews and the like. Her mother had a bit of Hungarian in her and also passed on numerous delicious but diet busting stick-to-the-rib dishes.
Thank for this thought-provoking post. It is interesting how our views on food have changed so rapidly in the span of just 30-40 years. My mother was an excellent cook when I was a child - her only problem was, if she discovered a new favourite recipe, she would cook it over and over again for week on end until we were all sick to death of it. After my parents divorced, all of her cooking skills seemed to evaporate overnight, much like the old chef in "Eat Drink Man Woman" (if you haven't seen this movie yet, I highly recommend it).ReplyDelete
I found your blog from my friend Muffy's blog. I have to tell you...I thoroughly enjoyed this post, seems very apropos right now.
I was blessed by two of the most amazing cooks in my life. My mother and my paternal grandmother. Both were gardeners and cooked a lot of what they grew. My mother tended to cook more healthful, but very delicious food, whereas grandma cooked and baked. Grandma grew up on a farm, so Sunday dinners of roast beef, mashed potatoes and homemade rolls were her specialty. Grandma's motto was "no one ever leaves hungry".
Now I don't mean to brag, but one does not grow up with such talent and not inherit it, or learn from it. I can definitely cook and no one leaves my dinner table hungry. As it should be.
There was also a smaller, independent grocery store on Wisconsin, not far from the Giant. MD liked shopping there because it felt more personal. Not only did they know her name, she could put her groceries on account and settle up once a month.ReplyDelete
I vividly remember her volumes of the Time-Life International cookbook. One year when the rest of the family was at The Farm and I had a summer job, I would fix myself a burger with sliced tomato and spend my dinner perusing a volume or two.
Camilla dear, the name of the small specialty grocer she frequented was Charles of Capitol Hill (which is an odd name since we lived in Cleveland Park and Capitol Hill was a couple miles from the store), it was wonderful. Had a really marvelous butcher. Hermione and I used to buy candy there and put it on our account. MD was never the wiser! I remember the T-L series, too. The photographs were mouth-watering! RDDelete
My mother is a good cook, but my father is an excellent and marvelously improvisational cook. Of course, they live in New Orleans now so they eat out much more than they did when I was a child.ReplyDelete
One of the best things my mother did as a teenager was to spend time with my grandmother's maid and learn to make many of her specialties. The only thing she didn't master was Bertha's cornbread, which was sublime.
Happy Thanksgiving, Reggie. Thanks for taking us down memory lane. As always, your blog is a real joy to read I could sit and talk with you for hours about your interesting family and life's experiences.ReplyDelete
My mother is, like yours was, a serviceable cook who does not seem to enjoy cooking very much. Perhaps because she has been a health nut for most of my life, her culinary focus when my sister and I were children was nutrition--we had a reasonably-sized portion of protein, starch, and vegetable on our plates each night. The food was bland and boring, but at least I never got fat! She rarely cooks now, and has only a few good dishes. Funnily, I suggested to her the other day that she didn't like cooking, and she immediately bristled. Maybe she thinks I called into question her mothering abilities.ReplyDelete
I myself am content to cook and bake only rarely, and really only for fun. But when I do, I can't say that I harken back to anything of my mom's.
Loved reading this post! What a colorful culinary childhood you had. MD sounds amazing.ReplyDelete
Hope you and Boy are well.
xo E + J