Wednesday, November 29, 2006


We made it through my mother's Thanksgiving dinner (turkey cooked by Winn-Dixie). She added all of the "trimmings": StoveTop stuffing, canned cranberries, gravy from a jar. Where I drew the line, however, was when she showed me the instant potatoes and canned yams she intended to serve. Instead, I made mashed white and sweet potatoes, skin on, with roasted garlic. Yum.

Have other kooky stories from our visit, but no time to write them today. Instead, I'll rerun an old favorite about my mother and her culinary talents:

She was probably a little nuts even here, circa 1942, but I think my mother really went off the deep end after she had babies. You'd think she would have stopped after the first one, when she realized how much she didn't like motherhood, but she proceeded to squirt out two more daughters. She pretty much hated all three of us to different degrees and for different reasons but primarily for being young women that my father might be inclined to love. In her mind, there was only room for ONE attractive woman in my dad's life. She never stopped to think about how ugly that made her.

Stories about my mother have the potential to be really sad and horrifying, but she is so warped that one can't help but find humor in them. Think of her as a cross between Edith Bunker and Joan Crawford. She sounds like Edith, but she'd strangle you with a wire hanger in a heartbeat.

She is allegedly not a stupid person. According to her, she was so brilliant as a kid that she skipped fifth grade and graduated from high school at 15. But throughout my life she has come up with the most ridiculous definitions, pronunciations and "facts" that I have to believe she graduated from 1929's version of the Sally Struthers Institute of Medical Transcription and Air Conditioner Repair.

From the time I was about 5, if I complained about anything she'd accuse me of being an "ingrate" because I had put her through fourteen hours of back labor before my breech arrival. Or, as she put it, "you were born rectum first". Apparently I came into the world inside out.

Dinner at our house was a real festival. The fun would begin with the array of slop my mother would try to pass off as food, brought to the table in scorched pots and pans. Meat of any kind was either overcooked beyond recognition or swimming in blood. Chicken was boiled. Steaks were fried and served with 2 inches of fat, meant to be ingested, because "it makes your hair shiny." Vegetables came in cans. When my middle sister moved out she called me one night just to say, "Asparagus is actually good."

I recently came up with a list of appropriately named dishes that were a regular part of my mother's culinary repertoire. I figure I'd better make fun of her now, while she's still alive. Here's what's on the menu:

Bazooka Beef - made with the cheapest cut of chuck steak, cooked to death in tomato sauce. I would literally cry eating this because my jaws would ache as if I had chewed 30 pieces of bubble gum.

Mushrooms a Morte - cooked to death. "Sauteed" until they were drowning in their own blackened juices

Flaccid Asparagus - the above-mentioned canned vegetable of choice

Chinese Toast - she'd serve frozen egg rolls for breakfast because, well, they have EGGS in them, right?

Decidedly Lacking-in-Cream Puffs (file under The Frugal Chef)

Triple-Bypass Spaghetti Sauce - served with an inch of floating grease on top

Triple-Bypass Chicken Soup -see above

The Peek-a-Boo ICU Sundae - vanilla ice cream, topped with sour cream

Yes, my father died of a heart attack. My mother, however, is still kicking at 84 and remarkably healthy. I suspect she was ordering takeout and eating it on the sly.

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