Sunday, February 26, 2017

My Mom's Cooking

     Those who pay close attention to my blog -- and, honestly, there's no reason why you should -- may have noticed that I have made several snide, and sometimes downright critical, remarks about my mother's cooking. My mother was a very nice woman, not an evil bone in her body, and I would never want to insult her. But let's face it, she wasn't much of a cook.

     But then, my mother was Irish. And as I've heard it said, there's Italian food, and Jewish cooking and French cuisine. But there is no such thing as Irish cuisine. Not unless your definition of cuisine begins and ends with potatoes.

     Another issue: my mother liked to drink tea. She put milk in her tea. I guess she learned that from her parents. The Irish and the English put milk in their tea. (Hey, the English aren't known for their cooking, either). I could never warm up to tea, until finally, sometime in my mid-40s, I discovered you are allowed to drink tea without milk. And I found out ... it's pretty good!

Dinner's ready!
     To be fair, my mom would occasionally boil up some corned beef. But a salad was no more than a lump of lettuce. And her vegetables were overcooked, and soggy and limp, and often cold by the time they hit the plate.

     She also made spaghetti. But remember, she was Irish, not Italian, so the pasta was limp and the sauce pretty bland. Then there was Friday. For us it was reheated-in-the-frying-pan frozen scallops, or reheated-in-the-frying-pan frozen fish sticks. Take your pick.

     I remember when I went away to college. All the other kids complained about the food in the cafeteria. But, for me, that stuff was great! There was a nice variety; it tasted good, and the food that was supposed to be hot was actually hot!

     The irony is that my mother was not  particularly a fan of potatoes. It was my father who insisted that a meal was not a meal unless there were some kind of potatoes on the plate. Baked, boiled, mashed, roasted, scalloped, French fried, au gratin, it didn't matter. And my father had not one drop of Irish blood in his veins.

     But my parents often went against stereotype. I mean my mother, the Catholic, married a non-practicing Protestant back in 1939. That in itself was a pretty radical move. They couldn't get married in the church; they had to take their vows in some room off to the side of the vestibule, while my mother's parents scowled at my dad and his heathen immigrant family.

     My Catholic mother was also not particularly interested in having a lot of children. It was my dad's idea to produce a crowd of kids who would run around the house, make a lot of noise and tear up the furniture.

     My mother was not much of a housekeeper, either. It was my dad who was neat and organized and at times even fussy. He was the dishwasher in the family. And my mother ... okay, she did like to shop, but she wasn't a clotheshorse, by any means. It was my dad who always wore a suit and tie, usually with a vest and watch fob strung across his stomach, and gleaming oxford shoes shined by yours truly at ten cents a piece.

     But then, B and I don't necessarily fit the stereotype, either. She's usually the one who's ready on time when we're going out, while I'm running around the house turning out lights, checking to make sure the stove is off, and grabbing a last-minute sweater in case it gets cold. And when it comes to negotiating to buy a house or a car, or even just at a tag sale, I'm the one who blusters and postures about what a great deal I'm going to make. But she's the one who always gets the better price, with a smile, a shake of the head, and an eye-popping lowball offer.

     But some things remain the same. B is the cook -- although she is actually good at it, despite the fact that her background is English and German. She does great fish, meat, pasta; her vegetables are fresh and firm; her salads are full of interesting things, and best of all, she has nothing against dessert.

     And then there's something else, something I learned from my dad. I'm the dishwasher in the family.


Rian said...

John, I found your post interesting... and it makes me wonder what my own kids think of my cooking. My dad was English/Irish (thus, I love tea - with cream!), but my mom was French and was if not great, a good cook. Born and raised in New Orleans, she cooked some things that I loved - such as oyster pie, oyster stuffing, oyster patties
(things I've never seen here in Texas), also crab cakes, and militon (chayote)stuffing with shrimp,etc. And although I was taught always to use fresh *seafood*, we rarely had fresh veggies. Mom usually used canned. It was a wonderful discovery when I was married and discovered how much I preferred fresh vegetables (so different from canned).

DDD said...

I was saved by my generation(women working outside the home). I was a bad cook. My son said that I coudnt taste food. I am even a worse housekeeper. The artificial Christmas tree stood in the corner in July 1984. My job was my excuse.
I count my blessing that I am still married and my H put up with me.

Anonymous said...

Two Italians here.
I'll say no more.

Olga Hebert said...

My mother was a good cook. My father couldn't (or more likely, wouldn't) make himself a sandwich and I don't believe he ever once did the dishes. On the other hand, my mom was very handy with tools and did a lot of fix-it jobs around the house. She never learned to drive though. My dad tried to each her once, but that didn't work out.

Stephen Hayes said...

I guess it isn't uncommon at a certain age to reflect on our parents and just how much we resemble them.

Carole said...

I grew up on very bland food. My mom always said "the kids wouldn't like that" when my dad suggested something more adventurous. It wasn't until I left home that I was exposed to onions, mushrooms, and spicy hot food. She made the BEST molasses chocolate chip cookies, and there often was a pan waiting for us after school ;-)

retirementreflections said...

I'd rather cook than do the dishes any day!

Tom Sightings said...

retirementreflections, B agrees with you completely.

Janette said...

I'll tell mom that you have finally given her an excuse. She is 1/4 English! None of us ever remember her cooking. Neither can she! Her saviors were Big Boys and Jack in the Box.
Of course that argument breaks down for my husband's family. His mom was a good cook. All English, she knew what to do with a can opener :)
My husband cooks and I do the dishes. We figured out that arrangement in year 25. We are both happy.

Anonymous said...

In my house, I cook and do the dishes.

Still the Lucky Few said...

Oh, my! I grew up with the blessing of a mother who was a fantastic cook. So much so that her six daughters couldn't hold a candle to her talents. She was a pioneer woman with a large family of seven, and limited financial means, but her natural talent for cooking grew out of love for her family, and became a thing of legend. It was mostly ethnic (Romanian) but she incorporated many North American dishes she read about in a national paper. She died five years ago at 94, and is greatly missed.

Kathy @ SMART Living said...

Hi Tom! It seems we have even more in common. My mom was a lousy cook too. She just didn't care about it so fish sticks were a main course AND she loved TV dinners (and we did too at the time!) As soon as I was able I started doing the family cooking and everyone was fairly happy. And while I don't think I'm a gourmet by any means, I can cook a few dishes really well. Fortunately my Thom does the dishes for me in our house too. ~Kathy

Barbara said...

My Mom was a pretty decent cook and my dad wasn't bad except that he made a terrible mess that I, as head dishwasher, had to clean up. LOL. I'm not much of a cook. Never really enjoyed it like some do Which is too bad because it could make my diabetic menu much more exciting.

Anonymous said...

I have to laugh each time my husband tells someone that I am a good cook. Fortunately, my ego isn't tied to my ability to cook or to do any other domestic chore.

Both of my parents cooked foods that we kids liked, but it was just plain old farm cooking. The one thing my dad taught me was to heat food thoroughly before serving. Can you guess my husband's main complaint? Oh, yeah, the food is always too darned hot.
Cop Car
P.S. Any of the women in Hunky Husband's family could cook rings around anyone else I've known. In fact, his sister has owned and run a bakery and a deli; she has published a couple of cook books; she has represented Cuisinart in demonstrations all over the USA; and she is still (age 77) a pastry chef at a fancy restaurant. And she's no better a cook than any of the other women in his family.

joared said...

Meat and potatoes were a meals musts my father insisted upon. Considering his requirements Mom was a pretty good cook but not the fancy variety type -- her foods were the "stick to your ribs" kind as would be desired on the farm where she grew up. My MIL's version of the same hardy food was with a southern orientation -- but she cooked the heck out of all vegetables with the electric stove burner on high forever, plus her focus was on quantity of intake and her weight reflected that. Amazingly to me she never developed diabetes and lived to over 90 years despite the fact her extremely excessive weight for years led her to a very sedentary life style.

DJan said...

I'd rather do the dishes than cook any day. My husband is the cook in the family, and he's really good at it. He also is very protective of the condition of the kitchen and shoos me out if I think I might learn to cook someday. Love this post, Tom! :-)