Saturday, August 29, 2009

What's for dinner?

"As a child, my family's menu consisted of two choices: Take it, or leave it." -- Buddy Hackett
So true....but not the negative sentence that quote might imply. Mom was a great cook, as I've mentioned, and the Italian heritage didn't hurt either. Who could complain when arriving home after a harrowing several hours ice skating on an outdoor rink to be welcomed with a delicious bowl of homemade Pasta e Fagioli or Minestrone? Every Sunday before church, mind you, the pot of "gravy" (Italian tomato sauce) would be put to a simmer on the stovetop....laden with homemade meatballs and bracciola. We'd stop at the bakery on the way home for our crusty, semolina bread and enjoy our family dinner at 2:00. The typical time for Sunday meals.
Now, though Mom's homemade cannelloni and manicotti (made with homemade crepes; rather than macaroni shells) are legendary to those who passed through our doors.....we did have a few less than popular dishes....but we had to eat them anyway, as per the Buddy Hackett rule. One comes to mind: Kidney stew. That one has never made it to my own kitchen as an adult.....but even with that meal, mom had a way with the gravy....thick and flavorful....so that it made sopping it up with great bread a delicious treat. Don't even mention Wonder Bread to my dad--he'd call it, "Like gum....a waste of food."
Just because Mom was a great cook and most of our meals were homemade, she wasn't opposed to trying new trends, such as Chicken Pot Pies or TV Dinners. What a treat that was for me! All the food was separated into little compartments--nothing touching the other food--and what about that little dessert treat! Oh, we knew it didn't taste as good as Mom's food, but the novelty was special for us, and she'd always want to make us happy. Mom would make her famous Stained-Glass Window cake using Jell-O and Cool Whip, for company dinners ("Doesn't it look pretty?"), but alongside would be a meticulously prepared cake from scratch....and then some.
No, we surely didn't suffer in the meals department when it came to my mother. She'll always be the gold standard for kitchen excellence in my book.

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