Thursday, July 10, 2008


Should I try to type or compose while I'm actually watching an episode of the X-Files? No. I shouldn't.

But I do have some fun news, as I hinted at yesterday. Austin and I spent this evening at the Nashville Rollergirls practice, learning how to keep stats. In theory, we're going to be two of the new Statsgeeks, and tonight was the first night we started to learn the process. At first everything was a little weird but once we started actually watching some jams and marking down the offensive and defensive moves, it started to come together like a puzzle. Who knows if this will turn into a major extracurricular, but it was entertaining and it was fun to talk about it on the way home.

Here's my food-themed contribution for tonight (because you don't want to hear about the frozen pizza I just happily consumed)...

Foods that Remind me of My Mother:

Potato Salad- When I write this on a menu, I refer to it as Mom's Potato Salad. On the recipe card, which I wrote down from her dictation about thirteen years ago, there are such helpful instructions as "add a clunk of mayonnaise, maybe a little more." I don't know at which point she started putting chopped dill pickles in her own version, but Uncle Bill told her that Grandma said to him privately, in a very prim manner, "Vickie puts RELISH in her potato salad." I started using unpeeled red potatoes in my own variation, and I feel a little impious every time I do.

Sweet Potatoes- My mom isn't quite a foodie. When we were little, her mantra was, "It's just fuel for the body." This was generally in response to us saying, "I don't WANT to eat white beans! I HATE white beans." (Okay, to me. I was the one who said that.) It is certainly a universal truth that often the simplest foods taste the best, and for my mom, when she only has herself to feed and no obligations for the evening, nothing satisfies like a baked sweet potato. It is both an indulgence and a necessity.

Tootsie Roll Pops- In retrospect, I don't know if Mom even likes these. But she always had them in her purse, and we only got one if we were well behaved. Candy was a very, very limited commodity in my youth, so these made an impression. The unfortunate side effect is that now, they don't really count as candy to me at all. Only the hundreds of other forbidden sweets will do.

Toasted Bread with Garlic and Tomato- In the summer of 2003, the week of our Jansen family reunion at Dunn School, I got there a day or two earlier than my sisters, and got a little private hangout time with Mom. I cooked dinner for her, Kam, Mark and Amy, but I can't remember what I made (probably the famous pork loin, and grilled corn with Parmesan butter, my favorite recipe that summer). Mom came out and sat with me on the steps of the patio, and she brought a knife, some slices of toasted crusty bread, a few ripe tomatoes and some garlic cloves. She had learned a trick in her travels to Italy earlier in the summer, and she showed me how to slice open the garlic and smear the cut side into the bread, really pressing hard to imbue the bread with the garlic oils. Then she sliced the tomatoes in half and crushed the open tomatoes against the garlicky bread, seeds and all. I can't remember if this trick also involved olive oil; it seems likely but I am pretty sure I'm skipping a step. I only remember it was sunset, and she was describing these perfect evenings in Italy that started with this simple snack that oozed with flavor and freshness.

Katharine Hepburn's Brownies- Surely the simplest brownie recipe ever, and I think she says she cut it out of the newspaper. Who knows if Katharine Hepburn ever actually baked them, but I love the idea that such a classy and timeless woman would definitely have preferred a classy and timeless recipe like these. We always cook them a little bit to overdone, and the nearly-burned corners are, of course, the best. I can remember many a night, growing up, that would end with brownie snacks while we finished a movie downstairs in the family room, all five of us piled up on the big gray sectional couch with Grumpy at our feet and a pot of tea on the coffee table.

I'm sure there are so many more, and I'll think of all of them as soon as I close the computer and start getting ready for bed. Maybe I'll pull together a Volume 2 for you, as we soldier on through July, the month of Food Writing.

1 comment:

Vickie said...

Ah, you make me teary. I've introduced avocado sandwiches, Grandma style, to Kam. It was such a pleasure. Some foods remind me of my mom, too. And I think of you every time I make popcorn when I watch TV or brownies or whenever I eat something in a restaurant that has a creative or unusual combination of ingredients. I always want to talk to you about whether it works or not. It's a wonderful connection. In the kitchen, I wear a mental plastic bracelet that says "WWLD" ("what would Laney do")--as a cook and foodie, you've reached the status of a deity. Heavenly.