Tag Archives: Mother

Cooking with My Mother’s Ghost #1

20171225_140135.jpgIt’s Christmas and my mother’s been gone four years now. I think of her most at this time because it was her and my father’s favorite season. They loved Christmas and New Years.

They were married on January 8. When my father died on January 7 at the age of 80 my mother remarked they were one day short of their 60th wedding anniversary. I said, what’s one day. You were married sixty years. No, she said, we were married 59 years. And that was the end of the discussion. So like her to be precise.

One thing she wasn’t precise in was her recipes. Don’t get me wrong, she did know a thing or two about cooking. But I rarely saw her use a measuring cup. She would experiment until they were right enough to write, but she still hardly ever used exact measurements when she was doing the actual cooking. So at this time I am starting a new series. I’m going to attempt to cook every recipe she wrote down in her recipe book.

Why my mother’s ghost? I’ll be super honest. “Ghost” is a huge “catch” word. It makes people stop and stare. Perhaps they think it might be a scary cookbook. The actual meaning of the word for me as I was trying to come up with a title was ‘spirit’ as in – how would my mother do this? Or, what would my mother say about this? Or, how would my mother feel about this? You see, my mother cooked with a passion. So for the love or her cooking and for my mother – I give you the first in a series.

Every Christmas that I can ever remember my parents would have a lavish open house. I say lavish, our first home was a little square frame house in South Houston, Texas, with a crack in the foundation an inch wide at which my brothers and I would set traps for lizards on the inside of the house! My mother’s open houses were magical filled with good food, and fun decorations, like the paper fireplace stuck to the wall with tape, the electric “burning” logs giving no heat, the paper streamers made from painted grocery sacks, and the popcorn and cranberry chains we spent hours stringing and placed delicately around the real tree. We always had a real tree and it would perfume the house with the scent of Christmas. It was still a lavish affair in my child eyes. Later down the road of life our houses grew as did the Christmas open houses.

My mother spent days on food preparation. We four kids helped decorate cookies, of course, but we had little to do with the actual food that made the banquet such an affair to remember. I’m thinking of the hot plum pudding, and the steaming wassail, the candies from around the world, the honeyed ham, or the finger sandwiches. I will try to recreate for you each of these things as time goes by.

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Ingredients. I left off the lemon. Don’t forget the lemon!

Each of my endeavors to cook these recipes will come with step by step photos to give you an idea about what it looks like.

The first recipe I will do is one I have made for years with my mother’s blessing. Mine never reached the level of deliciousness that my mother’s would though. You’ll have to try this and make your own adjustments to fit your tastes.

This is my Christmas gift to you, my dear readers: Mary’s Shrimp Dip

Ingredients:

1- 8oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese

1 cup Hellman’s Mayonaise

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 lemon (the juice and lemon jest)

1 cup diced shrimp (my mother would say make large enough pieces to look like there’s shrimp in that dip!)

Cook the shrimp. I use the frozen E-Z Peel large shrimp. You can find them in a lot of stores. Bring the water to a roiling boil. Add 3 tablespoons of salt and 1 tablespoon of liquid Cajun Shrimp boil. Add the raw shrimp to the water all at once. (You don’t have to thaw first). Bring to another boil – about a minute or two, let boil for a minute. Turn off and let soak for five minutes. Drain, cool, peel and chop.

Mix it altogether.

It’s always better the next day so make it ahead of the party.

Even if the party is just you, this is so delicious it’s like a party in a bowl.

Remember, don’t increase the lemon if you increase the amount of the dip. (learned that the hard way! Plus, I didn’t read the little side note my mother made. “when doubling only use 1/2 lemon.)

The Curious Case

Upon reflection of the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” I think the story is brilliant.

Here’s why: I oversee the care of my 86-year-old mother and the care of my nine week old grand child. The two are similar in that they don’t have a lot of choices about life. So I can see where the storyline comes from. The writer asked “what if?” and there it was.

My mother sees life closing in on her. Her movements are more tentative, frailer, smaller every day. She is less and less sure of walking across the room. She can’t make the television change away from one channel. I’ve explained it a dozen times and written it down. But no, she’s decided the television doesn’t work.  Her values, beliefs, and determination remain strong but the world she maneuvers within has become tighter, tougher. It must be scary for her. She refuses to admit defeat, which is good for her but quite worrisome for those who care about her.

On the other hand, my grand child’s life unfolds within a growing world every day. She can see better. At birth her eyesight was only as well-defined as her mother’s face. Every week her distance vision grows sharper. She’s now sitting up and watching the football game with her grandfather. Her bright smile and obvious excitement at every turn has me believing that she’s a bundle of possibilities and not just a little bundle of flesh and bone with arms and legs that seem to sneak up and surprise her with their wild movements.

The baby’s movements are changing and growing more precise every day as her muscles grow stronger. My mother has lost most of her muscle mass. She holds up her arm and I can see each bone with the flesh sagging around it. She struggles to get out of a chair. She has never cared much for any physical activity and forget exercise, though she did go through a Jack LaLanne phase.  At this point, she is a poster child for “if you don’t use it, you lose it.” If I remind her that she needs to walk to gain strength, she gives me that thin-lipped look, with an ever so slight shrug. No, she doesn’t want to, so it isn’t going to happen. She tells her helper that I make her tired.

So the writer for “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” must have experienced or seen the connection of opposites with the very old and very young and asked “what if a person was born old, grew younger, and died a baby?” What kind of difficulties would this present? What kind of difficulties would this present for everyone else? Especially those who loved that person?

While my grand child increases joy in our home, worry over my mother grows. I try not to think about it but then if I don’t think about it, here comes the guilt. Worry-guilt all for love. It’s a curious case of not really knowing what to do, nor how to do it.