Saturday, 4 February 2012

How My Mother Ruined My Life (Part 1 Of 7,000,000,000)

Mom didn't like cooking.

That's not to say she wasn't great at it. When my sister and I were little, she canned beets and made homemade jams. She saved the carcasses of various fowl for soup bases, and her Yorkshire Puddings always rose perfectly. She had four hundred and thirty-three uses for a canned ham (including the can), and I still make her Foo Yung salad when we need to bring a dish to a potluck.

She threw incredible dinner parties with ridiculously good food. Remember the late '70's and early '80's??? THOSE dinner parties. The ones where the men wore their best fabric belts on their pleated pants, their wives showed up in their most colorful scarves, (elaborate knots faithfully recreated from the pictures in 'The Knaughty Look'), and you and your siblings got up real early the next morning to finish all the half-drunk Vodka Gimlets and Mai-Tais before your parents crawled out of bed.

Some of her recipes are legendary. Her crab quiche is PHENOMENAL, and people actually ask for it for Christmas (not for dinner, because then you'd have to share, but as a gift), and there have been actual physical fights (perpetrated by my husband and my cousin Connor) over the last scoop of her potato bake (which she will ONLY serve with ham, not turkey, which effectively halves the number of times we get to eat it, and therefore causes some serious holiday depression).

As wonderful a cook as she was, she didn't enjoy it so much that she wanted to spend each and every day cooped up in a kitchen, slaving over a hot fondue pot. As my sister and I got older, the Nanking Cherry Jam production slacked... then slowed... and then disappeared altogether in favour of Smucker's Strawberry. She started working (as she no longer needed to be at home during the day, ferrying small children to and from school), and began buying her boullion at the grocery store. Crab quiche (with the rising cost of seafood), became a delicacy served only on special occasions, and (insert trumpets and choirs of angels here) Friday liver and onion night disappeared right along with the no-good husband.

There were a few dishes that mom kept up with on a regular basis, because they were both incredibly tasty AND cost effective. Her chicken wings (she did something ridiculous to them that I STILL can't get quite right), her hamburger soup (a third generation of our family is now learning to ask for it for birthday dinners), and, of course, (oh, sweet memories of childhood), her pork chops.

They were amazing. Succulent, seared the PERFECT amount on the outside (she always used the thin ones so the fat would get extra crispy), with the smell making the entire neighbourhood salivate. Oh, my God. I'm pretty sure that's where the term 'better than sex' came from. They tasted mom's pork chops and nothing else ever really measured up again.

So after Jason and I moved into our (skanky) apartment after high school, I decided that the very first time we had someone over for dinner, I would make mom's pork chops (this had the added bonus of not requiring us to entertain for MONTHS, because we had to save up for the cost of the ingredients). Sure, every once in a while we would serve some unsuspecting coworker Safeway brand macaroni & cheese, or a bag of stale-dated chips from Liquidation World, but when we actually invited someone over for a MEAL, that's what I would serve.

And then it finally happened. We saved up enough money to invite a friend we'd had since junior high over for dinner (the requirement was that the dinner guest be single- we only had enough money for 6 pork chops). For confidentiality purposes, I will not name said friend, but he had almost the same name as an a.a. milne character. Let's call him...... Pooh the Winnie (If this seems confusing to you, don't worry- he'll get the joke. So will his parents. It's not about you.).

We cleaned up the apartment (super easy when you own 3 sticks of furniture and next to no clothing), went ingredient shopping, and I started to cook (following mom's handwritten directions on the recipe card with near-religious zeal). By the time Chris- er- Winnie showed up, my meal was perfect. It looked like mom's. It smelled like mom's. And oh, glory, best of all, it tasted like mom's.

I was ecstatic. I watched as Winnie lifted a forkful of pork chop, (slathered in gravy and served over rice) to his mouth, and nearly quivered with glee as he chewed, swallowed, and looked at me.

"That's awesome Heather," he said, "tastes great."

"Thank you," I trilled (in my very best 'shoulder pads and melted Velveeta' dinner-party voice), "it's my mom's recipe."

"Yeah?" asked Chris. "You know she got it off the back of a Campbell's soup can, right???"


1 comment:

  1. I get some great recipes out of a kraft book. Don't tell anyone.