||[Sep. 13th, 2003|05:25 pm]
We have friends coming for dinner tonight. To mark the occasion, I am making an old family favorite: manicotti, using crepes rather that pasta. On the whole, I find them tastier and easier to manage, since manicotti pastas tend to be persnickty things. Making crepes is time-consuming, but less frustrating in the long run, once you have the technique down.
I don't make them often, my life being the wild ride of chaos that it is, so when I do I get nostalgic. I grew up thinking my mother was a wonderful cook - which she was for the time, and particularly in comparison to my paternal grandmother, a woman whose skills in the kitchen were so notoriously poor that we children would burst into tears if told we had to eat at her home. In one famed incident while they were running a farm, she was bringing a cake out to the crew of apple pickers when she tripped and the cake flew off the plate and settled in the sawdust. Undaunted, she plucked it up, brushed off the dirt, and served it up to the hungry. My grandfather was still laughing about it years later. The cake and frosting were so stiff that they were undented by their unexpected plummet.
And Gramma was indignant when the hungry workers opted for lemonade only.
Comparatively, Mom was a wizard in the kitchen. Her recipe for Chili Loaf even landed her picture in the Hood River News. (Hood River, Oregon, the sleepy little apple orchard town in which I grew up, has since been transformed into the windsurfing capital of the world - to no benefit to the locals, who now make the 60-mile trek to Portland in order to get groceries, thanks to "resort pricing" and minimum-wage service jobs.) We always liked it when it was our turn for Thanksgiving, because Mom's turkey was the best.
Then Mom and Dad divorced, and Dad remarried, and we learned that there could be more to cooking than a well-turned roast and mashed potatoes that weren't lumpy, more to a meal than successfully getting things on the table still hot yet not burned.
Carol could cook. Carol introduced us to international cuisine beyond spaghetti. We kids were alarmed and unwilling, but her diligence paid off and now we all relish the new taste sensation, the interesting texture. We're all willing to go beyond the shock of the first taste, adjust our expectations, try again.
Yet, there is pleasure in recreating at least some of the favorites (I will probably give deep fried round steak fritters a pass - unless they are served to me by Mom on a visit home). I remember how communal cooking was back then: Mom would be making the crepes while I grated cheese, chopped onions, stirred - and complained, of course.
We never understand, when we are young. Thank the goddess for memory.