Though she had many good qualities, my mom could not cook. If it did not come in a box, can, or some other packaging, we didn't eat it. Yes, even vegetables. There was no produce isle in my mom's world.
The star meal and main staple of our house was macaroni & cheese and applesauce. We joke about it all the time, but in all seriousness, we ate it a lot. Kraft depended on us.
Starfish, Rice-a-Roni, Cambell's. They all loved us, and frankly we loved them back. Jay and I never complained about mac and cheese. We just happily ate it up. I thought my mom was brilliant when she took canned biscuit dough, wrapped it around a hot dog, and called it a pig in a blanket. We ate a lot of those canned biscuits, and I thought they were great. The only problem was both mom and I were scared to open them because the can would pop. So we'd pass the can back and forth peeling it a little each time. When it was sufficiently peeled we'd plug our ears and she would smash it on the floor until it would pop open. Often it took several whacks.
As we reflect on this at least we can now say we consider ourselves well-preserved. My personal favorite was Mom's chicken casserole. Recipe: Layer canned chicken, can of peas, Cream of Chicken soup, mashed potatoes (previously flaked) and then throw cheese on top. I could eat the whole steaming casserole of slop by myself. Dad however, chooses to selectively eliminate the memories of that particular dish.
When Aaron came along Mom was too ill to cook much. No one fed that poor kid breakfast. He was a little gnome forriging through the forest of our kitchen. He lived on cheap yogurts from morning until night. I worried when I went to college that something would happen and Dad would forget to buy yogurts and he would starve. If not for the fact that we had to take him to daycare because mom couldn't care for him during the day, Aaron may have never eaten a decent meal. We were all pretty independent I guess.
Not that this made us unaware that other families ate delicacies unknown to us. Flour tortillas, salad with spaghetti made with real meat, chicken noodle soup from scratch. We tried not to think on this too much. But when we went to my Grandma's house (oddly my mother's mother) Jay and I would eat like we had never seen food before. I'd go through plate after plate and Grandma would say, "I swear kid, you've got a hollow leg!"
I only wished I did. I'd have used it for storage when I had the chance.
It was not an accident that six months after Mom died Dad married Linda, who just by some strange coincidence happens to be a gourmet cook. The only complaint Dad has is that he says she won't cook the same thing twice. When something is especially delectable he wants it again, but Linda has already moved on. They are food experts of sorts and travel all over the world eating an array of exotic and mouth-watering dishes. Dad frequents Farmer's markets and they have an enormous garden. You may remember that no one can eat like my Dad. 24 hours a day and never gains a pound. He eats in the middle of the night after eating all day. His meals are like endless appetizers. You can't blame the man. He has a lot of time to make up for.
One Thanksgiving after I had married and been formally introduced to the buffet of incredible real food out there by Peter's mother, I made stuffing. I was shocked to see my Dad eating it.
I leaned over and quietly reminded him, "Dad, you hate stuffing."
"No," he said, "I don't. I hate the way your Mom made stuffing."
Poor Mom. Poor Stovetop.
What am I saying? Poor Dad!