Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Mother’s Day guest post – Meal Memories

In honor of Mother’s Day, this month saidsally will feature guest posts from two of my favorite mothers – my mom Lou-Ann and my sister Sarah. First, my mom’s thoughts on cooking and mothering. (I bet you can’t guess which of her children hated peas!)
Meal memories
By guest blogger Lou-Ann (my mom!)
I seldom allowed my kids in the kitchen when I was cooking, because I was so afraid that someone would get burned or cut. As a result, cooking for the family was a solitary activity, one that I enjoyed (most of the time). But once in a while, I would get the urge to bake something: cookies, cake, brownies, or bread – and my children were allowed to help.
I remember dusting my big table with flour and giving a hunk of dough to each child. Sometimes they would end up with more flour on them than I had put in the bread dough, but it was always a fun experience. And when the bread had baked and cooled enough to handle, I would cut thick slices and lather them with real butter and give them to each child. Outside, there might have been snow and sleet or rain and wind, but inside was a warm kitchen with the lovely smell of freshly baked bread.
Mum’s biscuit recipe
Remembering this makes me wish that I had encouraged more mom-and-kid time in the kitchen when they were small. Still, we did knead dough and cut Christmas cookies and shake donuts in paper bags filled with sugar. We spent a lot of time eating together. There were Christmas dinners and birthdays, feasts with our friends with multiple children, picnics and camping trips. They ate Cheerios from highchair trays. They learned to eat “one more pea than you are years old” even though at least one of them gagged on peas. They thrived, and grew, and managed to develop their own tastes – tastes that are not much like the food they grew up with, but which are uniquely their own.
That last bit of sentence reminds me of how different the foods they ate when they were younger and under my roof were from the foods I grew up with. My father had some strange quirks when it came to food. He believed that tomatoes were poisonous; after all, they were related to the deadly nightshade. He ate raw potatoes, and he salted everything. He wouldn’t eat anything mixed together, which means no casseroles and no mixed vegetables. And (unbelievably) he wouldn’t allow rice or spaghetti on the table. Every night we had a piece of meat (pork chop, steak, hamburger patty, chicken leg), a baked potato, and a (canned) vegetable. On Sundays Mum would make special meals: fricasseed chicken, pot roast, pork roast. She had a signature salad that I thought the height of sophistication: take a leaf of iceberg lettuce and top it with one pineapple ring. Put a dollop of mayonnaise on it, and voila – Mum’s salad. And on Saturdays, no matter where we lived, we had the traditional Maine Saturday supper: hot dogs, baked beans, and homemade biscuits.
Virginia White Doherty – “Mum”
My mother’s biscuits were probably the only good food she made, if I can step back and be objective about her cooking. The biscuits were just standard-recipe baking soda biscuits, but they rose so high and were a lovely, dappled brown when cooked. We put real butter on them, and occasionally added raspberry jam. She used to give me my own piece of dough and let me cut biscuits out; they were always lumpy and uneven, but I enjoyed making them.
I guess I’ve come full circle, and rambled a lot, but the point is that I hope that my children remember something good about my cooking, and that it ties in with their knowledge of how much I loved them when they were little (and still do). I’m sure that my mother loved me, though she was always exasperated when I played with the dough (it makes biscuits tough). If you’re reading this and you have children that you cook with, let them make a mess. Give them gooey dough to play with. Cover them with flour. Laugh and smile and make sure you eat everything that looks good to you: memories are made of this.
Mum’s biscuits
(Note: You can use 3 Tbsp baking powder in place of the baking soda and cream of tartar, but it won’t taste quite the same.)
Yield: 18 to 20 biscuits, depending on the size of your cutter
6 cups flour
1 Tbsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt
4 Tbsp. shortening
½ – ¾ cup water
Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
In a large sifter, combine first four ingredients. (Alternatively, combine first four ingredients in a large bowl and thoroughly stir with a whisk.)
Add shortening and mix with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add ½ cup water and mix gently just until dough can form into a ball, adding up to ¼ cup more water as needed.
Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and gently roll out to ½ inch thick, being careful to handle as little as possible. Cut with round biscuit cutter or the rim of a drinking glass. Bake on ungreased baking sheet 8-10 minutes until puffed up and golden brown. Serve immediately with plenty of butter.

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