My grandma Mary (so was my grandma Rose) was a wonderful cook, and while she made a wonderful Sunday gravy (pasta sauce) and a tender pork roast, her most memorable dish was the Antipasto tray that she would do for family parties. For those not Italian, a family party could be counted as any time you had more than eight related people in a room at one time, which could me a weekly event.
Anyway, I remember that she would always save some olives for me to put on the tips of my fingers and then eat them of, after watching them glisten on my fingertips, like fake nails. She would also have salami, tuna packed in olive oil, tomatoes, provolone cheese and….. I can’t remember. No one really can remember everything that was in the dish. We also apparently never took a picture of the dish, and my grandmother passed away without telling us.
My mother is a fabulous cook. Actually, all of the women in my family are fabulous cooks, and most of the men were not too bad either. I remember my dad made awesome baked ziti. I led such a sheltered existence that I didn’t realize that everyone did not know how to cook, until my parents took us to the house of one of their friends and we were served spaghetti with a sauce that tasted like ketchup and american cheese melted on the pasta. (Its been a few decades since I was served that and I still shudder at the memory)
But back to my mother. Night after night she would put wonderful meals on the table. In addition to pastas and sauce she would serve breaded fish fillets, chicken, pork chops in applesauce gravy, homemade chicken soup, pot roast, sloppy joes in pita pockets and a hundred other tasty meals, that she would conjure up quickly each night.
Once I was married and cooking dinner, I asked her what cookbook she got her recipes from. She looked at me, sniffed and said, “Recipes are for people who don’t know how to cook.” And for her this is true. She is an intuitive cook, using a recipe as a starting point for proportions perhaps, but usually went off on her own.
And this is wonderful, until you want to re-create that wonderful dish at home. And she is a very generous and willing to give cooking advice. However, when you ask her for the recipes, she starts with “Get a bunch of chicken cutlets, and the chicken broth in the can” and you are sitting there thinking, ‘How many is a bunch, what sized can? Low Sodium broth? Will the world end if I use the stuff in the box?
And I find that after years of watching my mom cook has led me to be an intuitive cook. I have cook books and recipes pinned and recipe cards, but unless I am baking, I very, very rarely make the recipe as it is written. Sometimes its because I get distracted while cooking and I leave something out, but usually its because as I am tasting and smelling as I go, I adjust things. Including recreating my favorite recipes of my mom’s even though they never taste exactly the same.
However, my love for intuitive cooking makes it difficult for people who like my cooking and want my recipes. I am happy to share, but when I started to discuss the process, I find that I give guidelines as opposed to specifics. So, I now record the recipes on the blog and force myself to measure and time things. I am hoping my kids appreciate this later on.
For me, a lot of my family memories are tied up with food. I remember wonderful meals growing up. And the funny thing, that even though a lot of popular Italian foods contain the same basic ingredients, I can’t pick up an Italian cookbook and recreate my family’s sauce. Heck, my mom and her sister don’t even make the same sauce.
Now that I am getting older, I want to have those recipes to make for my children, and hopefully my grandchildren (way in the future) and have stories to tell them about my cousins, aunts, uncles and assorted relatives. My mom’s bout with cancer 5 years ago, and the fact that several of my aunts on my father’s side are hitting their 80’s remind me that my time to collect these recipes/memories are slipping away.
Which is why my mom needs a blog. This way her recipes are there for me and my brother, and the other people who love her food.
If you are reading this and it sounds familiar to you, then perhaps your mom should have a cooking blog too.
One thing I do have, and I am eternally grateful for is a video of my mom, aunt, daughter, cousin and brother all making Cavatelli. My mom is the one in the purple apron.