Perhaps the greatest tragedy of my life is that fact that my mom is one of the best Southern cooks out there but, God help me, the woman hates to cook. On second thought, it's probably a damn good thing she hates to cook because if she loved it I'd weigh 500 pounds. My all time favorite Mom specialty is her Chicken Fried Steak. I'm also terribly fond of her Chicken in Rice but she hasn't made that in about 25 years so it's but a loving yet distant memory. Still, I'll have to force her to make it for me some day so I can learn how it's done.
Ordinarily my family gets together for a Sunday dinner at least once a month but not tonight. Dad is in Mexico on a big birding adventure and my brother and his family were at one of my nephew's baseball tournaments all day. This afternoon I announced to Mom that I'd be making meatloaf and mashed potatoes for dinner. Nothing perks up mom's mood like dodging that bullet called dinner preparation. She spent the rest of the afternoon singing and dancing around the house in anticipation of her cooking free evening.
My brother called to update us on the tournament progress and to ask what we were having for dinner. When Mom said I was making meatloaf his response was "Oh God! I'm so happy I'm not there." Meatloaf is like a brother repellent in these parts. My theory is that he has an aversion to the word play. I'm the first to admit that "Meat" and "Loaf" have no business playing together but I make a damn good one. Another family favorite that he hates is Mom's Beirox. Mmmm. Mom makes this one about once a year and Dad and I will trample old ladies to get our hands on them. For those not in the know, Beirox are like a German hot pocket (for lack of a better analogy). They are delightful. I've never know anyone in the world who'd enjoyed Beirox so imagine my surprise when I discovered they were traditional German delight. I heart the internet!
Mom is in perpetual "clear out" mode. I've tried to point out that people live in this house and that food will always be in the frig and clothes will always be in the closets. Still, no cabinet is ever tidy enough for her. Lately she has been clearing out her cookbook cabinet and even her recipe box. (My brother would have a heart attack. He's got his eye on her cookbook collection "when she doesn't need them anymore". ) She did both while I as away so I'm certain some jems have been discarded. Mom can be endlessly sentimental when it comes to her family but things don't hold the same status. I suppose I should be glad but I'm certain this is how my beloved Baby Tender Love was lost. I KNOW she tossed her in one of her clearing out kicks. She swears that she'd never do such a thing but I know. She was once caught tossing my brother's beloved stuffed dog, Puppy, out. You'd think she was trying to sell his child by the way he reacted. She's lucky he didn't pack her up and send her off to the loony bin for that one.
Some of the few things she is sentimental about are, ironically, two of her cooking tools. Number one is her precious dutch oven. I'm not exaggerating when I tell you NOBODY but Mom is allowed to touch it. She is certain we will do something ridiculous and cause flash rusting. She gets squirmy if one of us even thinks of washing the thing. She makes her delectable beef stew in there and sometimes a cheddar cheese, jalapeno corn bread but that's on a very lucky day. Whenever she and Dad go off on a trip I always threaten to catch rainwater with her dutch oven. She nervously laughs at that one. If there's a way to have it permanently sealed and if her titanium knee fits, I swear I'll bury her ashes in the thing. Aside from her dutch over she has a unique attachment to her pressure cooker. I'm sure they have safe and sane pressure cookers available these days but no, Mom prefers the pressure cooker she got as a wedding present back in '64. Unlike the dutch oven you won't find me within a mile of this thing, especially when it's rattling away and ready to blow. It scares the hell out of me. I don't know what a pressure cooker is designed for but Mom tends to make corn on the cob with it. I prefer to hit the "vegetable" setting on the microwave to make my corn on the cob. Nobody is in danger of losing a limb or getting third degree burns so it takes some of the thrill out of cooking but it's what I like to do.
Here's a pic:
The horror, the horror.
One recipe I scored from Mom today was the one for her Snickerdoodles. Again, I'd never heard anyone use the word Snickerdoodle until Mom discovered Nordstrom occasionally offers them in their coffee bar. They're good but, naturally, I prefer my Mom's. You should see the original Snickerdoodles recipe card. It's in Mom's writing and she has no idea where she got it but the card is fading terribly. We were concerned that it might be lost forever so she wrote out 2 copies today, one for her and one for me. I don't think I've ever made these in my life but God knows I've had my fill.
Despite Mom's aversion to cooking she has a couple of optimistic cook books in her collection with titles like My Golden Recipes and Our Family Favorites. The Golden cookbook is chock full of recipes clipped for magazines and papers. Needless to say she got this one when she was a newlywed and still, sort of, liked cooking. Dad says he almost became an alcoholic and gained 20 pounds their first year of marriage, not so much because of Mom's cooking but because society had told her it was customary for a bride to greet her husband at the door with a martini. Problem was, she only knew how to make martini's by the pitcher. Ah, the good old days.
Once at an estate sale I found a beat up old recipe collection and bought it for a buck. The home was obviously one that the last resident had lived in for decades. The recipe book is titled The Sucefsful Housekeeper (No typo, it's spelled "Succefsful".) It's suffers from water damage but someone took the time to clip out lots of recipes and household tips and carefully paste them into the front and back of the book. It broke my heart that someone hadn't inherited The Succefsful Housekeeper so I decided to give it a home. Plus it's just plain fascinating. The book has an 1882 copyright. Lots of recipes are copied on to very old, odd bits of paper. I'm assuming paper was hard to come by for this home maker. In the glossary I found the following definition "Boudin- A delicate compound made of quenelle forcemeat." Well, that clears things up. Elsewhere I discovered "How any Boy or Girl can make a Japanese Shuttle Cock" and a "Cure for Smallpox" as well as a clipping titled "Onions a Nerve Tonic". I can't find the name of the owner in the book but, Shandon and Kb, we may need to get together to make her Cream Cake in honor of her efforts.