Food is love. Not exactly. Not in my family when I was growing up, at least. I saw that principle applied in other families where dinner time centered on a meal lovingly prepared by a mother who might have gone out and picked fresh vegetables from her own garden, or used canned vegetables from that same garden in the winter. Homemade mashed potatoes, gravy, green beans with ham hock, a fresh salad, and fried chicken or smothered steak might appear on those tables and maybe even homemade yeast rolls. Oh, the very idea of that kind of careful preparation still boggles my mind. In our family, our housekeeper made a very good lunch: chicken and dumplings, salmon patties, or even smothered steak, but the vegetables came straight from a can and I can’t recall a single instance where we had fresh vegetables, or even something exotic like deviled eggs. No, those were at other people’s homes, not ours. My mother simply couldn’t be bothered to spend time preparing food.
I loved my mother – still do, God rest her soul – but she never regarded food with much reverence, except for frozen fish sticks and chicken pot pies, which were standard dinner fare for my entire childhood. Not to mention ice cream, which Mom ate for breakfast on more than one occasion. We could eat ice cream, too, if we wanted, though Cheerios and Rice Krispies were readily available in the cupboard. If we were really lucky, we got to go out to eat, but with so many children, that didn’t happen very often. We ate wonderful food made by Louise early in my life, and then Lorene for the rest of my childhood, and those women surely did know how to cook. But my mother…not at all.
One of my aspirations as I have aged is to be a good cook. Not a fabulous cook or a fantastic cook; just a good one. While I raised my kids on basic recipes like spaghetti with tomato sauce and bean tostadas, I have been well aware that if I harbor any hope of luring future grandchildren to my home on a regular basis, it is surely going to involve providing good food. Besides, what grandmother’s house worth its salt wouldn’t have a few goodies for the little ones to savor? Hence my decision to become a “good” cook.
I must admit to having a cousin who has provided me with guidance, along with a few delicious recipes. His mother loved cooking and his appreciation and ability to produce excellent food reflects that fact. So, he has taught me via email how to grill salmon, chicken, and turkey burgers (I don’t eat beef or pork), plus how to add a delectable turkey meatball to my already tasty spaghetti with tomato sauce. And my husband, a decent baker in his own right, has helped me understand the finer nuances of baking homemade cookies, cakes and pies. So, what is my reward for my hard work besides the fact that I continue to not have any grandchildren to lure over with my growing culinary skills?
The fruit of my labor has come in these past few years just before my children’s birthdays. “Do you want to go out to eat or come here for dinner?” I ask. “If you come here, you get to pick what you want.”
“I want your stuffed shells,” my youngest says, “they’re my favorite food anywhere.”
“Will you make your peach cobbler?” my oldest says. “I can’t get any that is half as good as yours.”
“Just make anything,” says my middle daughter. “I know I’ll love whatever you make.”
Ah, the joys of the harvest. Nothing can be sweeter…
Unless it’s the arrival of those grandchildren one of these days, and the chance to finally let them taste these dishes I’ve been practicing all this time just so they’ll want to come and visit Grandma…