Gourmet cooking is wasted on me. I can’t discern the subtleties. If you gave me home-made cranberry relish, lovingly created with orange zest and other special or even secret ingredients I would either not tell the difference between that and canned Ocean Spray, or I’d like the Ocean Spray more. I’m sorry. As many of my high school girlfriends told me, “It’s not you, it’s me.”
But we don’t use jellied cranberry sauce in my house. I like the texture of the stuff with the berries still in it. My mom thought being fancy at Thanksgiving meant getting the canned, jellied cranberry sauce, cutting out both ends of the can, pushing the whole contents out in one jellied cylinder and then presenting it sliced into disks that looked like purple hockey pucks in a special cut-glass serving dish. You can’t do that anymore. Today’s cans are extruded and don`t have a lid you can open on the bottom.
I grew up reasonably big, and reasonably healthy, so I can’t complain too much about my mom’s cooking. My wife is a better cook. There are a few things she makes I’d change, but she does so well, I have no cause to complain and I don’t. I’d prefer beef stew with a tomato base rather than a gravy base. That’s one example. But the gravy is good and I love her, so I keep my mouth shut, except when I’m shoveling in the stew. My wife has been known to make chicken soup with so much rice that it sops up most of the broth. She makes it that way if I ask her to. My mom probably made it that way because she added more rice to the soup than the recipe called for.
The most idiosyncratic thing about my mom’s cooking was that she served the same things together most if not all the time, and that she served the same meals on the same days of the week, or the same holidays. Maybe that’s why I usually eat the same thing for breakfast and the same thing for lunch every day until I get sick of them and then move on to another same thing.
The worst of these concoctions was scrambled eggs, and canned spaghetti. We had that a lot on Friday nights. For Easter, it was always leg of lamb with creamed onions, green beans, and pan-broiled potatoes. It`s only a slight exaggeration to say that I thought when we had steak that French fries, and peas were also parts of a cow. You might have a different green vegetable with turkey on different occasions, but you would have turkey for Thanksgiving and for Christmas, maybe for New Years Day too; never any other time though. And when you had turkey, you would have mashed potatoes, mashed turnips, giblet gravy and that purple disk.
I don`t want you to think I miss my mother`s cooking; I don’t, but I do remember it.