February 23, 2010

Cooks and Lovers

Now I know I should really cut my Mom a break in the cooking department because she had 13 kids. In fact I am certain she was probably a better cook when she had less children. She also used to sew costumes for her kids and vacuum under chairs (or so I am told- I never witnessed such things). Before I came along she had been widowed (with 5 kids), and had married my father who had 4 kids of his own. Blending those families must have been rough. Then they went ahead and faithfully had 4 more kids of their own. I was the eldest of these. Confused? Understandable. The point is, she was spread thin. Very thin.

The meals I remember Mom making were fairly simplified. She even invented a simple 'pizza' with a flour tortilla as the crust. Next came spaghetti sauce from a jar, and in lieu of pepperoni just cut up s slice of baloney, add cheese and pop it in that new invention- the microwave for 45 seconds. Yum! The only dessert she made was a no-bake cheesecake from a box by Jello-brand foods. Jello was also a staple in our home. Jello blended with dream whip powdered whipping cream (yuck!).

I couldn't believe it when on a morning after a sleepover, my friend Gwen taught me the proper way to make scrambled eggs. The part I found fascinating was where she dirtied an extra bowl for scrambling the eggs in instead of stirring it up right there in the pan. These eggs were divine compared to the eggs I had been sifting through at home, avoiding that long white strandy stuff that my torturous older brother had told me was the chick's belly button. So when Gwen introduced me to a perfectionist way of cooking my interest in what else could be done better had been piqued.

My maternal Grandmother had been an excellent cook. Pies being her specialty. One bite of her perfect lemon meringue pie and you could be transported to heaven! I am still trying to figure out how her sealed edges never separated. That seal breaks on me every time. Too bad I can't call her up in heaven and ask her what the trick was. She'd probably be to busy serving up pie to answer my question anyways. If they don't have pie in heaven, they should. My mother used to say that cooking great dishes was Grandma's way of showing her love. Funnily enough her comic husband used to say "There are two types of women, those who are good cooks and those who are good lovers, and BOY can your grandma cook!" As I child I found this statement confusing. I am still scratching my head a bit as to why he would say this in public.

My cooking isn't award winning, but I am not afraid to try new things. Unlike my mother, (or is it because of her) I do bake things from scratch. Maybe it was the same for my mom. She rebelled against the made-from-scratch things by stocking up on Jello-brand cheesecake. Do we try and be what our mother's were not? Possibly...

I like home-made vs the box on most things. But not corn bread. Sometimes faster is better because it means more time spent with your family- and that is a good way to show love. My daughters are always the first to pull up a stool or chair to "help" me cook. Being the impatient perfectionist that I am, we have adopted the phrase "watching is helping!"

Yesterday when we had to bake a cake for the blue and gold banquet I invited my 10 year old boy to stop watching television and join me in the kitchen. After all it was supposed to be made my him. I taught him how to sift flour, and separate eggs. We made my favorite home made yellow cake. He did a great job! It was great to share that time together, just the two of us. However Big Girl's homework did have to wait. Sharing my time is a way to show my love, and even though he complained at first when I tore him away from the boob tube, when I asked him this morning if he liked making a cake with me, he slyly smiled and admitted defeat. Maybe there's a little chef in there somewhere.


c a n d a c e said...

As a side note to this, Grandma Gwen was the most amazing lady I have ever known (in the short 3 yrs I knew her) and the most incredibly talented. (so I've heard)

My dad told me she'd make homemade bread EVERY day. That's pretty sweet right there.

And P.S. I wish you would cook for me! :)

Kelly said...

So true Candace. When your Dad was younger she did make home-made wheat bread which I sorta remember but by the time I was older she had switched to store bought Granny bread.

There were so many mouths to feed she must have been making food around the clock.

One of her many talents was making everyone feel loved and heard and special. I miss her every day.

Emily said...

I admit it. I love Dream Whip.