My mother was a wonderful cook and she did her best to create healthy and delicious meals that included a variety of recipes, but with her rather meager food budget our favorites tended to come back around with great regularity. She wasn’t as tied to repetitive meals as some of my other relatives. I have one cousin who swears that on Sunday his family had roast, on Monday it was stew, on Tuesday hotdogs, on Wednesday fried chicken, on Thursday soup, on Friday fish and on Saturday hamburgers without fail. He didn’t seem to mind the routine at all. In fact, he notes that he always knew what meal was ahead and he enjoyed the dishes that his mom chose to present on the table.
For many years Sunday meant having dinner with my grandparents and there was no telling what my grandmother might have in store for us, but the meal would always be fabulous. It really was the best day of the week, not just for the food but for hearing the stories of long ago time from both of my grandparents. Grandma might have chicken or ham or roast or pork chops but her most delectable delights were her vegetables. She’d cook creamed corn, okra, potatoes, green beans, peas, squash, tomatoes, broccoli. The table would be lined with her dishes that somehow seemed to come from a five star restaurant. Everything was made fresh. Nothing ever came from a can. Much of what we ate grew in her backyard. She’d pair biscuits and corn bread with freshly churned butter and jam that she made from berries. Our favorite was dessert that might be strawberry shortcake filled with freshly whipped cream or one of her famous pies with crust so light that it flaked on the fork.
On Mondays there was no telling what our mother would create. She often made the meal a bit lighter since we had eaten so much on Sunday. This was a day for her soups and stews and hash or maybe a big bowl of beans with a side of cornbread.
By Tuesday she was ready to venture into a lovely meal with chicken made a number of different and delightful ways. She was masterful at taking a canned vegetable and turning it into a gourmet wonder. There were rarely leftovers from one of her meals unless she decided that it was time for beef liver and onions.
Wednesdays might be anything from pizza to her famous secret special hotdog recipe which is still a carefully guarded family favorite. She also had a way of making beanie weenies seem like food fit for a king. Her chili was scrumptious just like everything that she made.
On Thursdays she often went all out because she knew that our meatless Catholic Fridays were coming. She created heaven with a round steak or a pot roast. She liked to make interesting salads long before most people thought of such things. I loved her coleslaw or carrot salad. Her vegetables were almost as good as Grandma’s but her mashed potatoes were prizewinning.
Fridays might have been a bust because of our prohibition of meat, but my mother’s tuna salad has never been recreated by anyone. It was so good that we actually looked forward to it. She also created homemade pimento cheese that was legendary even among my friends. They speak of it in awe to this very day. Once in awhile we had fried fish and if Mama was in a rush to get to her mother’s house for our Friday night rendezvous with the family, she just popped some fish sticks into the oven. They were okay, but not really worthy of my mother’s culinary talents.
We often had something fun on Saturdays. It might be hamburgers or hotdogs or even Tex-Mex dishes. This was a day for spaghetti and homemade meat-sauce or barbecue that our mother seasoned with her own recipe. Saturdays brought “kid” food that we absolutely adored.
I suppose we took those wonderful meals for granted at the time. We did not think of the hard work that went into earning money to pay for the food or the labor of love that went into the cooking. We just eagerly rushed to the table where the most delightful aromas enticed us to chow down. Looking back I realize that she had to be very creative with her budget and her menu planning to keep us so full and satisfied.
I have such warm memories of sitting around a table with my mother and my brothers. We laughed and talked and actually paused long enough to really pay attention to each other and to the food. There were no phones. The television was not turned on. Our focus was on being together and really tasting the delicious morsels that our mother had made. It was a simple but quite delightful time.
I forgot to mention something that my mother often did that absolutely thrilled us. On Saturdays she almost always made a fabulous dessert of some kind that we ate late in the evening while watching old movies on the television in the dark. She was literally known for her chocolate cake with buttercream frosting, so it was our favorite. Sometimes, though, she made cookies or ice box lemon pie. Other times she simply bought ice cream that we devoured in a single sitting. It was a wonderful life and I am grateful to have experienced it. I suppose it has much to do with the contentment that I feel to this very day.