Sunday, December 28, 2008
My mom rarely cooked when I was a kid. We seldom sat down to eat together and most of our food was whatever I could cook or whatever she could make in 5 minutes or less. She often brought home leftover food from whichever restaurant she was working at, but we mostly got by on packaged foods, hot dogs, tv dinners, donuts, candy bars from the gas station on the corner, that sort of thing. We qualified for food stamps so once a month or so there was a trip to the grocery store and that was pretty exciting. Chocolate pudding in cans! Fruit Loops cereal! Bologna! Wonder Bread! Those were big treats for my sister and I. So obviously I grew up with food issues, childhood food habits that I have been trying to override almost all my adult life. At least I don't really crave any of the specific foods that I grew up eating, mostly since we had the same foods so often that I still can't bear to even look at certain things. Velveeta cheese and Hamburger Helper would be good examples of that. Heh.
But once in awhile my mom would pull out her cookbook and make a real dinner, especially if family was coming to town to visit. We were always excited about that but I am afraid it always ended badly. She had two dinners in her repertoire; one was a chicken/rice/Lipton onion soup mix casserole which wasn't bad (I make it once in awhile) except that she always overcooked it. I was shocked to learn as an adult that rice was actually soft and not crunchy. The other thing she made was meatloaf, which always smelled good, but then had a suspicious vomit like flavor to it that was pretty disappointing to say the least. I never did figure out what she added to get that flavor.
Anyway, my mom died over a year ago and last summer I received some of her belongings. I have been slowly sorting through things and greatly appreciated the irony of getting her cookbook and box of recipes. I make most of our food from scratch and while my kids certainly have the occasional crappy food, mostly we eat unprocessed, organic foods. I was so proud when my children expressed utter horror when they saw these three recipes:
In case you can't believe your eyes, the recipes are for Coca-Cola Cake, Dump Cake, Wacky Cake (wacky ingredient seems to be vinegar?) and the real stomach turner is Mayonnaise Cake. I have a vague memory of that one, it was actually a chocolate cake and the mayo was supposed to make it more moist. I suppose it tasted ok but well, maybe it should have a different name. And who wants Miracle Whip (of course we only had Miracle Whip) in their cake? yuck.
There were other interesting things in the book too. I left my mark on her notes for her work in a furniture repair shop, and yes that is a cigarette burn mark on the paper, my mom was never without a Kool Menthol in her hand. Don't get me started on how everything of hers STILL smells like smoke....
This was a coffee cake recipe written by my grandmother:
And oddly, my mother's tax return from 1975 was tucked in the cakes and cookies section which was just classic. But it was also a poignant reminder to me of my childhood and of how hard she worked; she mostly had waitress jobs, but that year she got a "better" job refinishing furniture, a job that she thought might have a future. Unfortunately, there were no tips at this job and her income - $2,450.83, was far less than what she earned as a waitress. She went back to waitressing the following year and stuck with it until a few years before she died.
Well, I am off to bake something, anything to rid myself of thoughts of Mayonnaise Cake running through my head!