Saturday, February 14

Even The Dog Wouldn't Eat Her Cooking...

If we'd had a dog, it wouldn't have gone near anything served up by my mother, known in our town as the absolute worst cook ever. Never bought a piece of meat she couldn't turn into shoe leather. I had no idea steak could be cut without a chain saw until I left home.

Nor did she ever cook a vegetable for less than three hours. Again, I had to leave home to find out broccoli and cauliflower are supposed to be crisp, not mushy. Although I've learned to love broccoli, cooked or fresh, to this day cauliflower has never passed my lips due to the memory of the smell that permeated the house on the mornings Mother was cooking the life out of it.

'What was a typical Sunday dinner in your childhood home?' was a suggested topic for this week's blogging prompt at Facebook's Genea-Bloggers group.

That one is easy: baked chicken. The oldest, scrawniest (translation: cheapest) whole chicken my mother could find at the local mom 'n pop market. Mashed potatoes that, except for the lumps, could easily have been library paste in disguise - we were never quite sure. A vegetable, most likely overcooked broccoli or cauliflower (more about that later). Runny Jell-o (much more about that later).

At our house, breakfast was at 7:00 sharp, dinner (as lunch was then called) was at straight up noon, and supper was served at 5:00. Not 7:05, 12:05 or 5:05. Made no difference if the food was ready, it went on the table anyway. Jell-o was the worst. Mother rarely made it early enough that it could set up properly, and putting out little bowls to put it in meant more dishes to wash, so she didn't. As soon as we'd put the half-set Jell-o on our plates, the liquid part would run into and under everything else.

Then came the year she decided to make Christmas Jell-o. Usually a no-brainer. Make one box of red flavor, pour into jellyroll pan, chill, cut into cubes. Repeat with green. Put a few cubes of red and a few of green in those little bowls she was loathe to use, top with a dollop of whipped cream. Naturally, she didn't start it soon enough to set up completely before dinner. The result was something the color of baby poop and about as appetizing.

Then there was the Thanksgiving she decided to try her hand at oyster stuffing, which would've turned out okay if she'd simply added oysters to her regular dressing recipe. But noooo...she used two cans of oyster soup to which she'd added a can of water to each. The result was not stuffing, but oyster soup with chunks of bread floating in it.

On reaching adulthood, now with my own car, I began eating only a couple of spoonfuls of each dish on the table, staying long enough to be polite, then if it wasn't a holiday, going straight to the nearest drive-thru. If it was a holiday, I'd head over to one aunt's house where the feasting began at a civilised 2:00 (or maybe 2:30), and to another aunt's for dessert at 4:00 (or thereabouts). The two places my mother would never go on Thanksgiving or Christmas 'because they eat so late'. She truly was that inflexible.

There was one thing she didn't screw up, one thing she could make better than anyone. Banana nut bread, from her mother's recipe. But even Grandma couldn't get it to turn out so moist and flavorful. Mother would say she didn't do anything but follow Grandma's recipe, but so has practically every other female in the family, and no matter what we do, it never turns out like hers. Even a dog, if we'd had one, would've loved her banana nut bread!


Proud Mom said...

Funny to me that she would spend so much time on the vegetables, ignoring the need to tend to the jello.
I hope this is all a part of your wonderful imagination. If not, my guess is that you were a very skinny child!!

JamaGenie said...

No, Proud Mom, it's all true, and yes, I was a skinny child. All knees and elbows until I moved away from home.

pinkpackrat said...

Ahhhh yes, good old mid-western cooking. It is like the little girl with the little curl....when it's good it's very very good but when it is bad it is horrid. When I was seven I loved cherry jello with fruit cocktail in it--but I'm glad I never came over to your house for supper LOL

JamaGenie said...

So true, ppr. In this case, horrid! Therefore you won't be surprised that people *rarely* came to our house for supper.

Midwest Mom said...

I have never been more thankful for my Mother's good cooking than I am right now, after reading your post.

She didn't work for the prison system, did she? ;)

- Julia

JamaGenie said...

Noooo....but now that you mention it, she *could have*! Oddly, when I was in junior high, she went to work in the cafeteria at the local college, but only as a server, not in the kitchen. Even so, you'd think she would've picked up some cooking tips. Her attitude about putting a meal on the table was it was a chore, like laundry or cleaning house, not something from which to derive joy or satisfaction. You're sooo lucky, Julia, that your mother is a good cook!

Frieda Babbley said...

Prison system roflmao that's hysterical. It would have fit so perfectly! You poor thing. What a fabulously written story JG. I was totally transported. I have to say, it did make me hungry. But I don't know that I'm going to be mixing red and green jello together anytime soon.

JamaGenie said...

Thanks, Frieda! A suggested topic one week on GeneaBloggers at Facebook was "Mom's cooking, good or bad" (something like that), and this was the result.

In defense of the red & green Jell-o, IF made correctly it's quite pretty and "Christmasy". I made it a few times for my own family.