As my mother’s three year angel-versary approaches (6/25), I can’t help but remember how she always would turn to her red, Betty Crocker cookbook to teach us girls how to cook. My mother was not a stellar cook, by any means. In fact, some of her dishes were so bad, even the dogs snubbed their noses at the “treats” were trying to pawn off on them. I will say, she was a better baker than cook. I always thought the same of myself, until I became an adult. Now, I am a better cook, although I can hold my own in the baking department.
My specialty as a teen, was making peanut butter cookies. My younger sisters always asked me to make them. We didn’t have a kitchen aid, food processor or a lot of fancy gadgets to help us; we did most everything by hand or used a hand mixer, if needed.
That cookbook is such a reminder of my mom. I used it to learn how to convert measurements, how to cook vegetables, and to make homemade brownies. Every Christmas, we would make divinity. I still keep that tradition alive today. Although, in CA, when it rains half of the winter, it can make it challenging for the divinity to set up right. If you’ve never had the fun experience of racing against the clock to get the divinity out of the mixing bowl, via two buttered spoons, onto a cookie sheet covered in wax paper, only to have the humidity too high and reduce your divinity clouds into sticky, flat, white puddles…you’re missing out. However, when it turns out just right…it’s a sugary piece of Heaven that melts in your mouth.
Tonight, in 85 degree weather, I stood near a warming 350-degree stove, and prepared the white sauce to go with my scalloped potatoes. Once that was completed, I peeled my potatoes (in batches), sliced them thin on my mandoline slicer, arranged them in a nice scalloped design in the ceramic baking dish and alternated layering with adding the sauce. It was during the layering process, I thought about my mom. She would always remind me to cut the potatoes as thin as possible. Thankfully, I have a mandoline now and I would be lost without it.
I didn’t get the chance to cook for her often as an adult, but when I did, it meant a lot to her. I was the cook in our family, after my died passed several years ago. She loved my Spanish rice. Neither her, nor my sister, Kathi, could cook rice that wasn’t from a microwavable bag.
Since we didn’t have a lot growing up, when my mom would make scalloped potatoes, it was usually with chopped up ham. It was a fairly inexpensive casserole, that fed a family of five. My family now, doesn’t care for the ham in it and they will tolerate the potatoes, as they prefer rice, but they let me make my scalloped potatoes every now and then. Little do they know how much it means to me.
If you don’t already, I encourage you to cook with your kids, siblings, spouse; family. Spend time together. Make memories. Share these moments for generations to come.