Saturday, November 14, 2009

Phoning it in, day 2

In her kitchen, my mother has a small binder covered in the kind of bright orange and green flowers that only the 70s could've produced. The binder has sat in my mother's kitchen my entire life; longer, even. It was put together by my great-grandmother, my father's grandmother, and gifted to my mom in 1971. Contained within its flowery covers are many of my great-grandmother's secret recipes.

My mother insists that every one of the recipes is missing a key ingredient or instruction that guarantees no one will ever make the dish better than my great-grandmother made it. (Based on what I remember personally of my great-grandmother, this sounds about right.) My mother deemed it a worthless book for recipes long ago, but has kept it all these years for my great-grandmother's musings that introduce each section, such as this lovely bit on casseroles:
"Casseroles, casseroles. God blesses them, heaven smiles on them, and sometimes the devil scorns them. Like little boys the dishes themselves come in endless sizes, shapes and colors and only the combinations of food baked in them are such as to put the contents of a little boy's pockets to shame for sheer variety.

Only a casserole can win high praise or cruel criticism; prevent chaos or create bedlam; cheat the garbage can and starve the dog; salvage the budget or break the bank.

Only a casserole can rescue more cooks than any other dish; challenge more women to create; been blessed by more working wives; cussed by more men; and been the salvation of more sudden hostesses."
My favorite part is the finale paragraph, which contains one of the most impressive run-on sentences I've ever encountered. THAT's how passionate my great-grandmother was about casseroles.
"Here is a word of caution: casserole dishes are in disrepute in many homes because of the thoughtless combining of incompatible leftovers. Casseroles will only bring groans in the home where the cook just clears her refrigerator of ALL leftovers and just dumps them into a baking dish and calls it a one dish casserole meal. Imagine several kinds of meat, one a ground mixture, some gravy, corn, sweet potatoes, cauliflower, shrimp, a canned peach with much juice and three partial glasses of different kinds of jelly. Needless to say little was eaten. Had she left out the sweet potatoes, one of the vegetables, the cauliflower, those two do not mix well, the shrimp, the peach and the jellies and then extended what was left with a can of peas, or carrots or even cooked some celery, made some more gravy flavoring it with a bullion cube if necessary and heated it all until boiling hot and topped it with biscuits then baking it, served a side dish of mashed potatoes, a salad of almost any type the result would have been a satisfied and well fed family. The first mess was hardly fit for pigs let alone the family. Her refrigerator may have been cleaned out but her family disgusted and suspicious of anything ever cooked in a casserole dish."
I'm also a fan of her infomercial inspired introduction to cooking sausage:
"Try this method of cooking sausage for one of the biggest surprises you ever received in your whole life. It is well done but tender, juicy and not a hard crust anywhere. Perhaps you too will hear this comment from a guest: "That is the best sausage I ever tasted. How did you cook it anyway? And how did you ever get those patties so evenly thick and so perfectly round?"
Aaaaaand there you have it: night two of phoning it in. Sigh.

3 comments:

Nicki said...

Sounds like you've earned your martini!

adrienzgirl said...

My dad's family is in town this weekend visiting and they brought my grandmother's handwritten cookbook with them. I was perusing it yesterday and was so amused. They are so cool to have!

turtle said...

I suddenly have an urgent need to make a casserole.

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