Growing up, I never really understood why my mother would say that she never knew what to cook. I do remember her saying she was tired of her own cooking. The menu was typical American food: hamburgers, macaroni and cheese, spaghetti, baked chicken, etc. No, the chicken was never fried –she probably did not want to have a hot oil mess on her hands. Funny, when we went to grandma’s, she made some darn good fried chicken in her black cast-iron pan and my mother always said that she liked it.
Oh, how did I forget to mention potatoes and hot dishes? There was some form of potatoes at nearly every evening dinner. I get it. We needed our starch. The hot dishes all seemed to have a base of some type of Campbell’s soup, either tomato or cream of mushroom. There was one hot dish she made that was just plain tasteless. It was hamburger and chunky slices of potatoes. I am almost positive that one of the ingredients was cream of mushroom soup. I believe I let it be known at least once that I did not care for that dish. My wish was never granted. Thank God, I did not hate it. Sometimes it is better to just eat it and move on. The porcupine meatballs (hamburger, rice, and surprise-Campbell’s tomato soup) were tasty. They were always served with a side of mashed potatoes covered with creamed corn. I love creamed corn to this day. My partner will joke with me when I do occasionally have creamed corn with the mashed potatoes. He likens it to waste from a diaper. I should not complain. She fed us well and made sure that we received nutrition from all of the food groups.
Yes, mom did have cookbooks, but she never seemed interested in trying out new recipes. Her mother did not work from written recipes. It was all in her mind. As a result, there never were any unique dishes from Czechoslovakia that were made at our house. Kolacky are a Bohemian pastry filled with fruit that both my mother and I like. Grandma did make them, but did not teach my mother how to make them. Mother claims that they are difficult to make–you have to get the dough just right.
I think because my father was content with the menu, fine cuisine– just kidding, new foods were never going to see the light of day.
As an adult, I can relate to my mother’s feeling stuck with her cooking. I am breaking the mold and attempting to be a little more adventuresome. The internet has been a great source of recipes and inspiration. As Rachel Maddow, a host from MSNBC, says “Watch this space”. TAM