For most Jewish-Americans, the eating season seems to be year-round. We have many holidays and each one has particular foods associated with it. Even by Yom Kippur, the day upon which we fast, most families have special traditions for the last meal before the fast and for the first meal after the fast.
For most Christian-Americans, the eating season seems to be focused around the Christmas. The parties start right after the Thanksgiving and culminate with the Christmas Eve dinner, then the Christmas Day breakfast, and finally the Christmas Day feast.
No matter their heritage, this time of year finds friends sharing happy memories about sharing food with their families. These stories always fascinate me because eating was such a torture during my childhood and teenage years.
My mother hated to cook. She made only the smallest of effort and the outcome was invariably tough and tasteless. She ate very little at all, and never her own cooking, so perhaps she was unaware, though more likely, she simply didn’t care.
Everything she overcooked. We thought hamburgers were supposed to have a hard crust. She served blackened chicken long before the fashion. She did not believe in seasoning. She kept only two spices: salt (used only during the Passover Seder for mixing with water to represent tears) and paprika (used only during the Thanksgiving to give the turkey some color).
Here is the recipe for her signature dish:
1. Boil macaroni until it is the consistency of lumpy Farina.
2. Sauté ground beef until it breaks down into tiny pebbles.
3. Add a handful of frozen chopped onion and green pepper.
4. Combine above in a baking pan. Do NOT add any sauce.
5. Bake at 500° until a knife CANNOT be inserted anywhere.
On the first night, it was awful. We ate as little as possible. My mother would refrigerate the pan of leftovers and re-heat it in the oven the next night and the night after that and every night until it was gone. After a few days, it was inedible; truly impossible to chew and swallow. Unfortunately, when the pan was empty, chances were pretty good that my mother would whip up another batch of her specialty.
Maybe you wonder why we didn’t offer to cook or why we didn’t have sandwiches or just make a salad. We would never dare to give my mother a suggestion that she might perceive as the least bit critical; the consequences would be far more perilous than enduring her cuisine.
© 2012 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.