When my parents first got married, my mother used to prepare a Swanson’s frozen TV dinner for my dad when he came home from work. She was wearing an apron…and nothing else. Her culinary point of view really hasn’t changed since that first year. For me, getting married has upped the ante when it comes to cooking. Mostly because I’m staring at a $500 mixer I received as a wedding gift. It mixes, kneads dough, makes pasta. It even makes ice cream. I’ve had it for five months and haven’t even touched it. It intimidates the hell out of me and my 2 ft. by 4 ft. city kitchen with no counter space.
Growing up my mother rotated 3-4 recipes for most of our childhood. My brother and I did not seem to notice. Having a sandwich shop in the family we were treated to a limitless, healthy dose of hoagies and cheesesteaks whenever we wanted. Wonder why I no longer eat meat. On the family menu was the famous Mushroom Rice Chicken (made from a can of soup), Texas Tommies (hot dogs wrapped in bacon), and spaghetti and Ragu sauce (sometimes with ground beef). I vaguely recall meatloaf and Ham & Cabbage on occasion. The big culinary showing would come each year on my brother’s birthday when we would have London Broil, which was marinated in a jar of Seven Seas Italian dressing overnight. But she did make excellent macaroni and cheese – the real kind – from scratch. A fluke.
I did have other influences. My best friend’s mother and my dad’s mother were both great cooks and I spent a lot of time at both houses. Mrs. Long was always making homemade soup, apple cakes from scratch, and her own pasta. One day she even came to our house to teach MY mother how to make pasta. I only remember the entire kitchen being covered in flour. Never remember even eating the pasta. It was traumatic.
My grandmother would get up on Sunday mornings around 4 a.m. to start her gravy for the traditional family dinner at noon. Around 9 a.m., my brother and I would sample this gravy with a meatball on toast for breakfast. Actually, it was a big treat. She also made amazing artichokes, chicken cutlets, pasta fagioli and Easter pie. Did I mention that my mother was Irish and my dad was Italian?
So back to the mixer. I will use it. Within the month. I promise. I think I’ll start with a tart. I’m definitely not ready for pasta yet.