A Pantry of Memories
Jan. 16, 2011 8:16 am
Updated: Jan. 23, 2011 8:56 am
Growing up, I remember both my parents used to love to cook for large groups of people. I remember many Saturdays in our small kitchen; friends & family gathered together eagerly awaiting the meal. My Dad often had marathon cooking days based on ethnic
foods; Chinese buffets, Mexican fiestas, & bang-up barbecue's were his specialties. Every dish started from scratch, with lots of chopping, dicing, and slicing going into the preparations. One of his signature dishes were what came to be known as "Burnitos"
because they were so spicy no one could eat them. He considered that dish his finest accomplishment, although he always toned it down after that so everyone could enjoy them. I have a picture of him in his yellow & white striped apron cooking up a storm.
Our family history is comprised of cooking stories...successes and failures. Mom was famous for leaving something in the oven at every meal. I can still hear her voice say (usually in the middle of a completely different conversation) "OH NO! The Rolls!"
(or fill in the blank with the appropriate forgotten dish) We still laugh about the time we found the baked beans in the oven the next morning, cold and completely untouched. Thanksgiving would not be complete without rehashing the year Dad left the huge
bowl of hand chopped and freshly seasoned homemade bread crumbs on the dryer in the laundry room, & didn't realize it until we had carved the turkey & set the table. No dressing for us that year.
Also included in my favorite cooking stories is one known as "The Peanut Brittle Incident". Dad makes peanut brittle and as he is stirring the molten sugary goo, he decides to "taste" the spoon. It immediately welded itself to his mustache. He danced a jig
as he tore half his mustache and at least a layer of lip off. He has yet to live that one down.
After I grew up, moved away, and then returned to my hometown, we started a tradition of Sunday Morning breakfast at the Folks'. It was a way to ensure we all stayed in touch in spite of kids growing up & life getting hectic. My niece & nephew grew up around
that table. We sometimes included extended family, and as the kids got older, friends were welcomed to ensure we got to visit with the kids. Mom spent a lot of time searching for something new & different to wow us, and often times the result was fodder
for conversation (or laughs) while we ate. Her enthusiasm for finding 15 different ways to serve oatmeal was hard to criticize, even if the oatmeal itself left a lot to be desired.
My Mom is gone now, and my Dad lives alone and still does his own cooking, although on a much smaller (& simpler) scale. Sunday morning breakfast has been discontinued, as Mom seemed to be the glue that held us together. On occasion, my mom's sister uses
"Sunday Breakfast" as an excuse for us to gather me & my husband with her family, and we never miss it. Food is comforting in so many ways, and my enjoyment of cooking whether for a group, or just me & hubs is a link to my childhood & the memories that shape