When Mom is gone, recipes disappear
Did you ever notice the January hypocrisy of so-called women's magazine?
Scan the covers of these magazines while you wait at the supermarket checkout line to see what I mean. This month, headlines scream: Lose weight in the New Year. Unfortunately, the headline is right next to a big chocolate cake or an appealing dish of macaroni and cheese.
I'm probably noticing those food fables more at this time of year because I'm just like millions of others who want to shed those extra holiday pounds.
Why is it that every time we try to go on a diet we end up thinking more about food than we did before?
What I've really been thinking about this week is the wonderful food from my childhood that I can't get any more.
Unfortunately, when a mother passes away, a lot of times her wonderful recipes are also gone. My mother was a great cook but didn't use recipes and she never wrote anything down. So I can't duplicate some of my favorite childhood foods.
Because times were tough for my parents when the mines weren't working, my mother learned to make some delicious meals with little more than flour and water. Throw in some eggs and potatoes and she was set.
One of my favorite dishes was Kluskie sautéed with a little onion and sauerkraut. The Internet is filled with recipes of every kind. I've tried a few but can't seem to duplicate my mom's tasty dumplings.
When Mom made kluskies, I ate so much she used to say I couldn't go outside if it rained. I might drown.
Over the Christmas holidays, my family gathered at my daughter Andrea's home. She's a superb cook who only uses fresh ingredients while she turns out gourmet meals every day.
As is our Christmas tradition, we helped Andrea make Italian Wedding Soup for Christmas Eve.
While this is one of our favorite holiday dishes, it's also Andrea's way of honoring the memory of her father.
Andy didn't cook much - just grilling and maybe two special recipes a year. But he always made the Italian Wedding Soup, thanks to a smart lie I told before we were married.
I told Andy it was a tradition in my Italian family that the male of the household always made the wedding soup.
The way we make it with handmade dough balls, Italian Wedding Soup takes three days to make and it's a big production. All family members help, even the kids who roll the tiny meatballs.
Through the years everyone in my extended family agreed Andy's version of wedding soup is even better than my mother's.
Fortunately, before he died, Andy decided to write the recipe on the computer, giving each daughter a copy. What we love is the fact that he added some funny remarks to each part of the recipe.
Each year it's a cherished tradition to pull out his recipe and sit together as a family making the soup.
This year, Andrea lamented the fact that we didn't have homemade perogies with the wedding soup. (Talk about combining cultures.)
In years past, my mother-in-law made her melt-in-your mouth perogies. This year, at 95, she's unable to travel so we didn't have her specialty.
"Who's going to make the perogies when Baba's gone?" asked my daughter. She decided she's going to have to learn, but "they won't be like Baba's."
My mother-in-law didn't write down her recipes and she's now too frail to do it.
I often hear people lament not having favorite family recipes. I've even heard that comment from guys.
Thinking about this, I went out and bought another one of the pretty, blank recipe books, resolving to write down some of my favorite recipes to pass along to my daughters.
It's a great idea but in reality, technology might get in the way. The Internet and email have just about taken away much of the written word. When my daughters and I want to exchange recipes, we email each other.
When I wanted Andrea's recipe for penne ala vodka, she emailed it. When Maria wanted my favorite crock-pot recipes, I emailed them to her.
Email is not forever. Computers break down and data gets eliminated. Or, we periodically purge our own system. One thing is certain: with all the email that comes and goes each day, it's hard to quickly put your finger on a recipe that was sent two years ago.
Computers have also gotten us out of the habit of writing anything in longhand. Yet, when a loved one passes away, what we long for is something he or she wrote in longhand.
When a friend came to visit the other day, we started talking about family treasures passed down from generation to generation. She told me her favorite heirloom is an old battered recipe book where her mother and grandmother wrote favorite recipes.
My daughters have asked me to do the same thing. "Make the recipe and write it down as you go," Andrea requested.
Knowing how much I regret not having my mother's recipes, I'm hoping I can do it for my daughters.
When you think about passing along family treasures, remember your favorite family recipes. They will be like little gems you can pass along.