As I said before, my Mother really could not- or would not- cook.
She always blamed my Grandmother. She said she never bothered to teach her. Or she blamed my Aunt Goldie, who she said stopped my Grandmother from teaching her because she was too little and fragile.
Both my Grandmother and my Aunt Goldie were wonderful cooks. My Grandmother’s kitchen was about the size of a walk in closet, but she could turn out delicious Holiday meals, made from scratch, for a dozen people without seeming to make much effort. She cooked 3 meals a day until the day she died.
Goldie lived for “Southern Living Magazine” and sometimes seemed to try every recipe in every issue.
My Mother would call from work and ask if we wanted anything from the Drive Thru on her way home…
When she did try to cook, it was a disaster. The kitchen cabinets in her house still show smoke and flame damage. The Fire Department had to be called at least 3 times because she put something on the stove, on high, and got distracted. She destroyed 3 ovens.
As I said before, one of our maids took pity on her once and tried to teach her to make one simple dish for Sundays. It was Baked Chicken with Lipton Onion Soup. However, instead of dissolving the powdered onion soup or sprinkling it on the chicken, she would just dump the envelope on it in a clump and put it in the oven on 450 degrees.
She was making blackened chicken before it became fashionable.
To accompany this culinary sensation, she would make French’s Instant Mashed Potatoes-so runny they looked like gravy- and heat up a can of peas or green beans.
We ate out a lot….
One year, right after my Father died, she decided to cook Thanksgiving Dinner for the first time in her life for me, my Father’s Great Aunt Mary and herself.
She was sucking up to the widowed, childless Great Aunt Mary in hopes of inheriting her property…
Thanksgiving Day, she pulled a 20 lb Turkey out of the freezer, threw it in a pan and stuck it in the oven. She then made her famous instant mashed potatoes and some Stove Top Stuffing. She also make some oyster dressing which, to give credit where it is due, was wonderful. I still can’t duplicate it….
Of course, when we cut into the Turkey, it was raw and frozen in the middle. Aunt Mary suggested my Mother give it to the dogs- if they would eat it. Luckily, Mother had a frozen Banquet Turkey Roll in the freezer, which she thought was a perfect solution.
I’m not really sure why she even tried these things…
She did learn to make Baked Beans to take to Church Pot Luck Dinners. She would put them in the back floor boards of her car to be sure they didn’t spill. They never did.
But twice-twice- she forgot to close the back doors on her car and pulled out of the carport bending the car doors backwards against the columns on the side of the carport.
Maybe she started the dementia thing earlier than we realized….
About 10 years ago, I got to town and was the first person at her house for Christmas Dinner. We hoped she was planning to pick it up at the Winn Dixie Deli, but she had sworn she was going to cook it.
However, when I got there, she said there wasn’t any dinner. She said she had so much to do, she had just not gotten around to fixing it. And about 10 people were coming in a half hour expecting Christmas Dinner. Luckily, my sister had food and we all just moved the festivities to her house.
My Mother was no longer allowed to do Holiday Dinners after that…
In the South, when someone dies, you have to take food to the family. She easily solved this problem. She either went to Mary’s Dinner and bought some fried chicken and put it in her own bowl and claimed to have made it or she made her Funeral Pies.
Her Funeral Pies were either German Chocolate or Lemon Chess pies from simple recipes that each made three pies. Using frozen pie shells, she could churn them out in no time flat. If she didn’t burn them, all was clear. We never told anyone she used the same bottles of Vanilla and Lemon Flavoring for about 10 years…
I can cook pretty well. My theory is if you can read, you can cook. I don’t have much time, but I do enjoy it when I can. I have never, so far, served a frozen Turkey at Thanksgiving or given anyone food poisoning. I’ve always had food for our guests at Christmas.
But, I have had my share of kitchen accidents.
Once, when I was living in Danville in my late Grandmother’s house, I cut my hand pretty badly making guacamole. For some, unknown reason, I called my Mother to come over to see if I needed stitches and to bring me some band aids, as I was out.
She showed up two hours later with a box of Kotex Maxi Pads and a roll of Duct Tape.
Of course, by then I had handled the situation myself…
I also have my own version of Funeral Pies.
One year, I went on the quest for the perfect Chocolate Chess Pie. I found a great, easy recipe that I use all the time. With frozen pie shells.
Everyone loves it.
As proof, I’ll share it below:
Chocolate Chess Pies
3 one oz squares unsweetened chocolate
1 Stick Butter (I use Salted)
2 Cups Sugar
4 Whole Eggs
1 Teaspoon Vanilla
1 Small Can Evaporated Milk (5 oz)
2 Nine Inch Regular Pie Shells
Preheat oven to 350 Degrees. Melt together Chocolate and Butter. In a small bowl, beat together the eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Pour egg mixture into the melted chocolate and butter mixture. Add the evaporated milk and stir until well blended. Pour into the unbaked pie shells.
Bake for 25 minutes, then turn the oven down to 200 degrees and bake for 10 more minutes. Yields 2 pies or 16 servings.
These are even better if nobody died….