Saturday, October 1, 2011

Missing Mom

It's a really rainy Saturday and I had the overwhelming urge to call my Mom.  Her 87th birthday would have been this past Thursday, so she's really been present in my heart and mind this week, and even this month.  She died six years ago this past August, and sometimes it seems like yesterday.  I can remember her saying as I went off to college - "Don't call me every week at the same time.  That way I won't worry if you miss a call."   It was terrific advice, and I passed it on to my sons as they left the nest.  I did call my mom almost weekly, sometimes even more frequently, but I never let more than 10 days between phone calls go past.  What did we talk about?  Rarely anything anyone else would consider important.  Of course we talked about the kids, work, weather, etc. but we also got into animated conversations about books and TV shows.  And  recipes!  She was my "go-to" person when I needed a new idea or help with cooking roasts or new dishes.  She would have loved hearing about all the experimentation I've been doing the past 2 summers with all the produce from our local CSA share --- new ideas about how to use zucchini to "What on earth do I do with celeriac?"   I cook like my mom - most meals are produced without recipes, or if we use a recipe, it's just a springboard.  It's always been a family joke, first when I was growing up, and now in my own family:  "I tried a new recipe but I didn't have X so I substituted Y, and I didn't have Z, so I used A instead,"  and the family always asks "So what did you substitute?" when new items appear.  It was always (and still is) earth-shattering when recipes are presented without change.    Since my mom's been gone, the internet has been my main source of information,  but my kids (and occasionally a sibling) will call whenever they're perplexed by a cooking question.  Today's urge to "call home" was prompted by the fact that I decided to make soup for dinner.  Mom always made what we called "Refrigerator soup."  She'd start with a meaty bone or some stew beef, lots of onion and celery, and then add whatever veggies or even leftovers needed using up.  She'd augment it with beef broth, canned tomatoes, V8 or tomato juice as needed.  Today's soup is starting from some stew beef, onions, carrots, fresh herbs, and celery.  I've got some beets in there and a small head of cabbage.  The liquid is beef broth, a can of crushed tomatoes, a slurp of vinegar and a bit of sugar.  Later additions will include some left over egg noodles and I hope to hide some eggplant in there!  (My husband is not fond of this, and this has been the abundant vegetable from the CSA  share this summer!)  Anyway, I kept my mom's soup kettle for a really long time but recently realized it was time for it to go.  She always made soup in an electric soup kettle.  The kettle held about a gallon of soup, and stood on 4 legs.  At some point during my youth one of the legs fell off, so for the rest of my mom's cooking career the 4th leg was always a can of tomato paste!  She continued using that kettle for the rest of her life!  I know that one Christmas I decided to buy her a new one, but the model had been discontinued and she didn't like any of the alternatives.    I couldn't bear to throw it away when we cleaned out her house, and I brought it all the way back to NH from Indiana.  It sat unused in the back of an overcrowded cabinet.  This past summer I finally realized that the memory of the kettle was enough, and it got thrown out.   So as my soup simmers away on the stove, I'm thinking of my mom and I'm wishing I could call her.

1 comment:

Panhandle Jane said...

I wrote a reply and failed to post it!

I also tend to think about my mom in connection with cooking, and I find it difficult to get rid of her cooking things. As a result I have a lot of items I don't need. However, we do have some "special" items that I want to keep. Enjoy your wonderful soup.