My mother was a scholar. Due to this, while growing up she was relieved of certain duties. One of those chores was cooking for the family. My Aunt M. took care of that, and while she developed into a marvelous cook, my Mom's skills never developed. Never.
At 530 every day, my father would walk through the door returning from work and we would be seated at the table fairly quickly. My Mom had a set menu for the week that varied only slightly during the years. The many, many years.
Monday was Hot Dog Night, boiled with white buns, sometimes white bread , a bowl of frozen French fries, always served in the same wooden bowl that was a bridal gift (and she still has today) and canned corn.
Tuesday was hamburger night, frozen, bought in paddies with little perforations in the mystery meat, fried up in a iron pan (was never put in soapy water!!), mashed potatoes and peas from a can.
Wednesday was meatloaf night or meat balls which she made with bread crumbs and egg. The meatloaf was prepared in a loaf pan, with the grease mercifully skimmed off. I’m not certain how she seasoned it, but certain it contained bread cubes because I can still see the mass of soggy yuckiness floating in the meat. Mashed potatoes and Vegall’s from a can (I loved vegall as a kid).
Thursday was left over night. Usually meat loaf and the mashed potatoes which she would sometimes make Mash Potato pancakes which were the left overs formed into paddies and thrown into the iron skillet, browned and burnt a little, they fell apart on your plate and were dry. Another can of veggies mixed together with the left over veggies.
Friday was spaghetti night. Served in the wooden bowl (same one), sauce (no meat!!) courtesy of a jar, and either tuna fish or fish sticks. If she was feeling really creative, she would prepare fried shrimp which she bought frozen and breaded,tossed into some hot grease in a thin high sided sauce pan. The shrimp was usually over done, but what an exotic addition to the menu that did not vary often!
Saturday Dad cooked dinner because Mom held an outside job at the county library as Head Honcho. When she arrived in Mayberry she was shocked at the condition of the public library. As a matter of fact, it did not exist! There was a small donated “book exchange” located on a second floor in the middle of Main Street called the Logan Helm Library. She went into action and campaigned to have a library tax added to the property taxes (she was not as popular as I would like to think) and in time she had her brand new library which she ran on Saturdays with the help of Margaret during the week. Anyway, she was gone on Saturday and Dad cooked. His menu varied so it is not so seared into my brain as my Mothers, but I remember a baked chicken as the main course. Saturday was the best because in lieu of apple sauce from a jar, or fruit cocktail from a can, or jello Dad would go to the bakery downtown and bring home a box of chocolate squares! Chocolate cake cut into pieces and covered in a thick fudgy chocolate icing. I can still taste their warm scrumptious wonderfulness.
When I left home and headed to college I had a meal ticket to the cafeteria for three squares a day. Even though cafeteria food was ...well, cafeteria food! and often the meat was referred to as mystery meat, I remained nourished and unaware of the finer culinary things of life.
In retrospect, I was aware of a couple of thing. I was aware that Judy’s mother prepared her French fries in a special fryer, made exclusively for the task! And once I was invited to a Mexican dinner at another family whose cousin I was best friends with at the time, and I could not believe it! I still remember the taste of those tortilla’s, because it was so foreign to my taste buds!
But it was not until I met my friend from New Jersey, the Sicilian, who, one afternoon, taught me to make lasagna. It was then I learned there was a lot to learn about the kitchen, baking, experimenting with recipes and the joy of cooking.
This is brought back to mind by a telephone conversation I had with Mom the other night, when checking on her due to the severe weather we have had lately. Oh, she was fine! Had power and as a matter of fact she had cooked herself a soup! Used a ham bone and some can's of veggies. It was good, imagine that! She commented.
I smiled inside as well.