Just Like Momma Used to Make
This was my mom Alice:
She studied home economics in college then taught it for several years. She even created one of the first high school home economics programs for men in the state of Utah. She used all these skills and more to teach all of her 5 children to cook through daily practice and summer cooking lessons. As part of the lessons she wrote out kid-friendly recipes on recipe cards and kept a file for us so we could find them easily. We learned to make breakfasts of muffins or scrambled eggs for ourselves and dinners like pizza or macaroni and cheese. I left home knowing how to cook a meal, to plan a menu, and to decipher most recipes. A love of cooking continues with all of my siblings to this day.
I still do a lot of things the way my mom did them I suppose, but as I was cooking the other day I realizes that there were some differences too.
I grew up with the vat of Country Crock (family of 7) and sticks of Parkay. We used the vat for our toast and to top our sides of frozen veggies at dinner. If we wanted to be “fancy” with our corn on the cob we got Squeeze Parkay. Sticks were used for baking along with shortening. We had real butter for homemade rolls on holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. For holiday baking we used butter for many but not all of our cookie recipes. I think some of this was economic and some was the prevailing wisdom of the day. I also don’t ever remember my mom using olive oil, although I’m sure she did on occasion.
Fast forward to today, I have a cubic yard of Costco unsalted butter in the garage freezer. We use it for all of our baking and also have a small amount of shortening in the cupboard. Toast needs are met by “spreadable” butter. For cooking I have a myriad of fats at my disposal–olive oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and canola oil. Writing it out maybe I need to re-evaluate certain dietary life choices.
Fresh herbs are not something we used a lot. Dried herbs from the pantry were fine. We got herbs for a few holiday or celebration dishes. When I moved to New York City for my first job I also got cable for the first time and was able to watch the Food Network (when it had cooking shows on it). I started to use fresh herbs. I went to the Fairway on 72nd Street and was astounded by how many types of herbs one could buy. Today I buy fresh herbs more frequently than Mom did, but still don’t buy them regularly. I do love how they brighten up a dish. I bought lemongrass for the first time a week ago and made some great pressure cooker chicken curry.
Stock and Bouillon
If my mom needed chicken stock for something, she usually used bouillon cubes. She also just cooked down a whole chicken in a pressure cooker and then used what was left as the basis for soup. Boxes of chicken stock are in our pantry all the time now. I also make bone broth for Dr. Jones to take for lunch.
After my mother passed away, my dad compiled a lot of my mom’s recipes into a cookbook. There are a lot of things in there that I go back to time and again–her blondie recipe, the recipe for chicken gravy–and some I don’t. Like Autumn Soup. I just can’t even with the Autumn Soup. It’s a soup of stewed tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and ground beef that created a bowl full of fall colors. I just never enjoyed it and haven’t made it once since being out on my own. I don’t make everything my mom made, but I still have my mom’s love for trying new recipes on blogs, in magazines and by adding to our cookbook collection.
Growing up we ate the majority of our meals together as a family. Regardless of the meal, we usually had a side salad of iceberg lettuce with tomatoes. With Dr. Jones’ busy schedule I am amazed that we are able to sit down and eat together as much as we do. My kids aren’t big on salad yet, but we always have a veggie tray of baby carrots, cucumbers and red, yellow, and orange bell peppers in the fridge that I bring out for dinner or use to pack lunches.
Let Me Sum Up
I am sure there are more similarities and differences, but nobody wants to read an encyclopedic ingredient comparison. I know my philosophy of cooking doesn’t stray too far from my Mom’s, though. She cooked to bring the people she loved together. To serve others. To teach them a skill so they could sustain and comfort. Although feeding a family can be a slog I’m glad I like to cook. Like Alice did.