Remembering Mom’s cooking

In response to my recent update and reposting of the post about my grandma’s butter brickle, my mom emailed me to say how much she enjoyed re-reading it and remembering both her mother-in-law and the delicious things she made. I replied that there’s just something about food that evokes strong memories.

Mom replied: 

Last summer I made (for different meals) fried tomatoes, and then warm cabbage slaw.  I really thought of Grandma Losch [her own mother] then.  Hmm,  will/does anything food-wise make you think of me? I think of you often when I make applesauce.

Well, yes, of course there are food memories that I tie directly to my mom in particular, and to my growing up in general! Rather than email them to her directly, I thought they deserved a blog post of their own. Here they are, in no particular order, addressed directly to my mom:

  • I remember when you would bake pies, you would give me the scraps of dough to roll out, then we would prick them with a fork, place them into a small tin pie plate and bake them. I loved eating those homemade “crackers.”
  • Of course, I remember you making sand tarts at Christmas! That’s why I attributed this recipe to you. You can’t imagine how tickled I was to learn that my future mother-in-law made the exact same cookies. That was another indicator that I was marrying the right man.
  • I remember when you tried to convince me that tossed salad tasted so much better when I cut up the ingredients. I am sure that was your way of getting out of making a boring old salad, but it was my early introduction to the kitchen and, even though I suspected I was being conned, I enjoyed slicing carrots and placing them atop iceberg lettuce. (Back in the days before arugula and field greens and balsamic vinaigrette.)
  • I remember how most of our family meals – and we mostly ate dinner as a family – included a meat, a potato, and a vegetable, with a fruit for dessert. I also recall you saying that was what dad preferred, and how he really didn’t like “one-dish meals.”
  • I also remember that on the infrequent occasions he was out of town and it was just “us girls” for dinner, you would always fix something “one-dish” like hamburger pie, chicken pot pie, spaghetti with meat sauce, or lasagna. Or pizza!
  • During dinner prep, being asked to go down to the basement and get a vegetable and/or a fruit out of one of the freezers, or off of the canning shelf, to prepare for dinner.
  • Wrapping meat in freezer paper, so that the side of beef we’d just purchased would last for months and months.
  • I also have memories of food that I would not eat. Liver & onions comes to mind. Or pickled tongue.  (GAH.) Scrapple, puddin’, and all those butchering by-products. I was not a fan of the gamey birds that sometimes showed up.  Venison was a push – OK in baloney and ground, but not as a steak. Giblets in gravy, yuk! And – sorry to say this – I was not a huge fan of that canned “Swiss steak” you made lots of in an attempt to salvage some particularly tough beef.
  • And let’s agree not to talk about the liver pate, OK?
  • I remember that you insisted that “jelly was too hard to make!” which was really your cover story, told in a convincing enough fashion that your mother-in-law kept you supplied with black raspberry jelly year-round.
  • Doing corn.
  • Gardening! Looking back on it now, I was less impressed then than I would be now. Then, the garden was, to me, the thing that stood between me and a ride to the pool. You would make us brave heat and humidity and gnats and sweat bees and pull weeds in order to “earn” our ride. Of course, it was that garden that made me love yellow wax beans and limas.
  • Pork & sauerkraut for good luck on New Year’s Day. I can’t not make this each year – it’s a must.
  • Making milkshakes in the workhorse Waring blender on Saturdays for lunch. That blender is still going – I use it now to make smoothies for the kids.
  • Turning Aunt Vivi’s grapes into juice.
  • That year that you had all those apples and were elbow-deep in turning them into freezer-ready apple dumplings, such that you decided Richelle’s grandma would be entirely qualified to take me for my driving test. I came home, giddy at having passed the test the first time, and you immediately dispatched me to drive over to Uncle Bill’s store for some ingredient that you need. Was that a legitimate need, or just a chance to let me go do what you knew I was dying to do (drive!)?
  • I can totally picture the kitchen at our farm house. Every cupboard, the stove, the sink, the wallpaper – all of it. And if I try really, really hard – I can smell it.

It’s one thing to reminisce about things you remember from long-gone grandparents. But this is cool because I get to share my memories while my mom’s around to read them! I hope my mom will weigh in with memories of her own that I may have forgotten to include.

Thanks for the memories, Mom!