I’m coming to realize that I’m grateful that I didn’t learn how to cook from my Mom. One year I wrote in my diary that all I wanted for my birthday was food that wasn’t brown. She cooked everything to within an inch of its life. Everything was mushy and dull. Nothing was colorful and crisp. She was from England, and her Mom had cooked all the meals to suit a man who had ulcers. Everything was thick gravies and canned vegetables. My Mom even had a special aluminum rectangular steamer pot for the frozen vegetables that came in a block. This was the only specialty piece of kitchen equipment she had. The only time she cooked from scratch was when guests came over, and that wasn’t very often. They got fed “Steak Diane” or “Italian Braised Beef” and we regularly got some nameless casserole that consisted of stale bread, cheese, and milk.
I know that some of this was because of the fact that we didn’t have a lot of money when I was growing up. She had to make do with what she had. I also know that some of it comes from the time period. I remember reading a recipe from that era that said for green beans almandine, you should boil the green beans for 20 to 30 minutes, or until tender. By that time they’d be so tender that they would be limp and grey and all the goodness would have been cooked right out of them. That was normal for our house. That was normal for a lot of people.
When Mom got sick with cancer I started cooking for us. I went to the grocery store and got fresh, colorful veggies for a stir fry. I remember her looking at me in amazement because I cooked it all for just a few minutes. She asked “Don’t you want to cook that a little longer?” I told her no, that we could eat the vegetables raw. We were just cooking them for fun. She was unbelieving, but tried anyway. After that meal she was sold on the idea and bought me an electric wok so I could make her more.