I have been completely duped. My mother has learned to cook.
For years, I have gotten mile after mile out of my mother’s lack of food knowledge and inability to cook. I have played the role of savior at most holiday dinners over the years, coming to save the day, been the object of countless phone calls about recipes, cookware and where to shop.
My common reply about shopping to my mother has been, “Where can’t you buy Shake-n-Bake?” About recipes: “Why not call for take out?” And cookware: “Please, Mom, consider the person piloting the plane.”
No more. My mother has moved to Georgia (ironically, that’s also her name — Georgie) and learned to cook. I think my brother Michael has helped, darn him. I don’t know if I will ever be invited to another Thanksgiving dinner again.
I have spent so much time talking about how I learned to cook because my mother was so bad at it that most people in my classes feel like they know my mother. They also have been spun to think that I was some poor kid who starved as a child, begging not to have to eat another dinner of hard noodles and cold Ragu spaghetti sauce, and that I rose above all the obstacles to become a wonder-boy chef. Kinda true — but a late-night phone call from my mom a couple a weeks ago has changed that.
It was late evening on a Sunday night that I got the call:
“Matthew James Haley, I have a recipe for you” she said.
“Oh?” I replied with a smirk. “What church book did you get this one out of?” said the king.
“Actually, I made this myself.”
As I got ready to let her know what she had done wrong, she again said, “made it myself.”
“I heard you the first time, Mom. Now how can I help?”
“No help needed, son — get out a pen and write this one down.”
Still in shock, I listened to my mother tell me about her Greek salad of peppers, feta, red onion and homemade lemon oregano vinaigrette. Char-grilled pork loin with homemade spicy orange jam and roasted parsnips. Fresh berries and cream. Coffee on the deck.
And on and on and on. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.
I was no longer needed. At 70-something, she has forged her way to becoming a true chef.
Apparently my brother Michael, his wife, Julie, and their kids have been eating dinner with my mother for months now, on Sunday nights. This is almost corrupt. It’s cheating. They are not allowed to help behind my back. My mom is supposed to call her son the know-it-all chef and beg for knowledge.
Michael has taken my place, and word on the street is that my brother Tommy is teaching her also, and in my own back yard. He lives in Bethany Beach part-time and has invited my mom to stay with him for a few weeks this summer, and I know he will teach her his in-family famous crabcake recipe, and then I will be destroyed, crushed and put to pasture.
No more Bluecoast. It will be called “Tommy’s Bluecoast Seafood Grill” or “Michael’s Northeast Seafood Kitchen” and, finally, “Mom’s Fish On.”
“Where’s the arrogant little boy chef these days, Miss Haley?”
“Oh, that one — he turned his nose up one to many times at my requests, so I sought knowledge elsewhere. I am no longer his sous-to-be.”
I must say it is a pleasure to see my mom take so must interest in something I love so much. It also goes to show you that it is never to late to try something new. When I stop to think about this, maybe she has done this a little bit so we can have more to talk about on common ground, or maybe she would like to cook for me for a change.
I am not sure and don’t need to know why. But, you know, when I was younger, there really wasn’t anything better than my mom’s meatloaf to me, even though it was usually burned and served with canned tomatoes and green beans. When I think about it, maybe it never was really the food… Maybe it was the feeling she created in the house and the kitchen, along with the food.
I know that when I talk to my mom again I will listen to her recipes and I know I will have no problem relaxing and letting her do all the work if she wants — just the way she did my first 18 years.
I will probably even let her do the dishes. She really does like to do them but, so do I. She taught me to not play the he-who-cooks-doesn’t-do-the-dishes thing. I believe he who cooks also cleans.
I am going to call her now for her recipes and, if she gives them to me, I will publish them with this column, or at least get them up on the Web site. She would like that.
Maybe, with a little luck, this will come out around Mother’s Day.
My oven timer just went off and I just realized I need to take out my pot roast made with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup and a bag of Lipton’s onion soup mix. Where did that come from?