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Memories of Mom’s cooking on Mother’s Day

May 8, 2011
By ANITA HANABURGH , The Leader Herald

Hi Mom. Happy Mother's Day. I was reading last night's paper. There is a list of many options for great places to eat out on Mother's Day: lots of brunch buffets; lots of special dinner deals; lots of free flowers for moms. I wish I could take you out to eat on this Mother's Day.

I don't ever remember taking you out for Mother's Day. When I was growing up, you always made dinner at home for Grandma and for Mema on Mother's Day.

We would sit around the oval dining room table with its blue, flowered table cloth and enjoy your efforts. I remember your pork roast the most, with the skin, crusty and brown around the outside and, oh, your gravy! However did you get it that color? You know the mashed potatoes? Well, I try and I try but they never taste like yours. I think they used to grow better potatoes.

When I grew up, we would still all come to see you on Mother's Day, but we never went out to eat. Mom, you made dinner for us all on your Mother's Day - for your daughters, your sons-in-law and all the grandchildren and often miscellaneous relatives. I don't remember even bringing a dish to share. You did everything.

True, no one ate out very much in those days. Even years later when there were no kids and more money, you never liked to eat out very much. Always the practical, frugal parent, you knew you could make it cheaper and better at home. You weren't aware of it, but you were the true "comfort food" cook. You made three full meals a day, every day.

We started with oatmeal topped with brown sugar that you carefully put on for us, then milk and bananas if we wanted. The oatmeal always was made with H-O Oats, never Quaker. I haven't liked oatmeal since the H-O plant in Buffalo went out of business. We drank orange juice out of a small little glass and took a little castor oil pill. Some tastes of childhood linger to this day.

We lived close enough that we could walk home from school for lunch. When we arrived, the table was set and the food was ready. All we had to do was sit down and enjoy your home-made split pea or navy bean soup. Sometimes we feasted on our favorite leftovers: cold meatloaf sandwiches, creamy macaroni and cheese or hamburger goulash. As a "modern" housewife you took advantage of modern time-saving foods. We frequently had toasted cheese sandwiches with Campbell's soup - tomato, chicken noodle (yum), and cream of chicken, cream of celery and cream of mushroom (ugh). You made lunch for us every day.

Dinner was centered on Dad's work hours. On Thursdays, we ate early and the rest of the days, we ate late. After school, one or all of your four girls sat at the dining-room table doing homework with half an eye in the kitchen watching you prepare a full meal for six. You did all this from recipes gathered from friends and family or recipes from one of your four-and-a-half cookbooks. There was Fanny Farmer, the "Joy of Cooking," Betty Crocker and, your favorite, the little one that came with the toaster oven. There was the Better Homes Cookbook with its red - now pink - and white, checkered cover. I can see it now sitting on my shelf.

You were a great cook, but I don't think you ever knew it. I remember pot roast, spaghetti with Mrs. Knight's sauce and meatballs, Spanish rice, hot dogs and Grandma Brown's doctored baked beans, oven friend chicken, chili con carne, scalloped potatoes with ham, Swiss steak, and pork chops with sauerkraut. There was always a starch, usually potatoes, your favorite, a taste from your Irish past. There was always a vegetable or two. We pretty much rotated green beans with peas, spinach, beets and corn from the convenient can.

Best of all, there was dessert. I remember oatmeal cookies with raisins, Audrey's chocolate cake from scratch, yellow cake from a mix with chocolate frosting, apple pie ala mode, lemon meringue pie, pie with blueberries picked at camp, Jello chocolate pudding cooked bubbling on the stove and brownies made from a mix but with big, fat walnuts added. Six dinners for at least six people seven days a week.

Mom, I don't ever remember taking you out to dinner for Mother's Day. Maybe we were too many. Maybe I just wanted to be at home. Maybe it cost too much. Maybe, I just never thought of it. I don't know why I didn't but I wish, oh I wish, I could take you out for Mother's Day today.

Restaurant watch: Take your mom out to eat today.




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