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We have friends coming for dinner tonight. To mark the occasion, I… - The Fucking Bluebird of Goddamn Happiness [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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[Sep. 13th, 2003|05:25 pm]
[Current Mood |nostalgicnostalgic]

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.

(Deleted comment)
[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-09-13 06:01 pm (UTC)
Actually, my father's family is from Hood River and my mother's is from The Dalles (slogan: "Yes, 'The" is part of our name). I grew up until highschool kinda split between them, then moved to Portland.

And, yeah, it's amazing how "ultra-cool" Hood River has become. It's the place to be for windsurfing.

Corvallis, huh? That's almost a town [g].
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[User Picture]From: correspondguy
2003-09-13 10:53 pm (UTC)


I thought *I* was the only one with a paternal grandmother who couldn't cook.

Fer example, Skippie's roast beef was uniformly grey, with every speck of juice removed. Roast beef as arid as the Sahara, that's what we're talkin' 'bout. It was years before I figured out that this was supposed to be the same dish that my Mom cooked medium rare.

Fortunately for me, Mom and Dad can cook. Because Mom's policy was "I cook one meal. Any special orders, you know where the kitchen is," I learned to cook at a young age.

Whenever we'd gather at Skippie and Poppy's, Skippie would get evicted from her own kitchen. Those meals were edible.
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[User Picture]From: zoethe
2003-09-14 04:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Sister!

Medium rare was not a concept my grandmother understood. Nor were vegetables that were bioled for less than an hour. Everything was a combination of mushy and dry.

SO bad.

Her youngest daughter inherited her skills. I remember our one Thanksgiving dinner at Kathy's. She got nervous about doing everything at once, so had cooked the turkey the day before and cut all the meat off of it, serving us what looked like leftovers. Dry, hard leftovers.

On the way home Mom promised to cook us another Thanksgiving dinner on Friday. We all cheered.
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