My mother was a fabulous cook!
Her pie crusts melted in your mouth. The roasts could be easily cut with a fork, and the accompanying vegetables -- usually potatoes, rutabaga, carrots, and onions -- were cooked to perfection. She made her own stocks and gravies, and knew just when to use them.
I never did acquire a taste for rutabaga as a child, altho I later learned to appreciate its unique flavor in pasties -- delicious meat pies prevalent in the Keweenaw Peninsula of Michigan. I don't think I had even heard of pasties until I lived up there. Certainly Mom never made them.
Home-made jams and jellies were stored by the hundreds in a damp and cool basement. Those were the days when wax paraffin was used to help seal the contents of the jar. Do people still use that method? I can vaguely remember pouring it into the jars. Daddy liked to grow stuff. Mom liked to do things with it in the kitchen. (And then, of course, he loved to eat it!)
One of Dad's favorite crops was rhubarb, which he grew in a small plot out back. To this day it is on my list of what not to eat ... tried it once, and just didn't like it. Mom and Dad both loved it, and she made lots of rhubarb pies just for the two of them.
Peas were sometimes served at our table, but never to Dad. In order to put himself through college, he worked in a pea canning factory, and often said that he thought he would probably never eat a pea as long as he lived. (And I don't think he ever did!)
All of Mother's cakes were baked from scratch. She had one very large flour sifter and a small one in case one of us kids wanted to help. (I almost never wanted to help. I was more interested in exploring and climbing trees. Peggy was interested in rescuing bugs and critters, reading, thinking, and writing. Johnny was so much younger than we that I really don't know if he helped or not when he got to be our age. Even if we didn't want to help, however, I can definitely tell you this much ... we ALL wanted to lick the spoon!)
After I was married, I tried to get Mother to crash course teach me what I could easily have learned over many years. I was an abject student.
However, I thought I made a more than passable chili and one time, when Mom and Dad were visiting us in Houghton, I made my prized dish especially for them. I was a little worried that it wouldn't have enough salt for Dad's taste. So, every once in a while I would sneak into the kitchen to put a little more into it. Then, I'd stir and give it the old taste test. Finally, it was ready to serve.
I did. Took the first taste and knew it had way too much salt in it! I could barely finish my bowl. Dad kept asking for more. I don't know how many bowls of over-salted chili he had, but all the while he was exclaiming about how delicious it was! I didn't quite know whether or not to believe him, but he was so exuberant in his praise that it was hard not to!
Some years later, Mother confided in me that they'd had to make several 'pit stops' on the way back to Munising -- some 140 or so miles. Dad had an upset stomach for another day or two, as well.
We told this story to the best mother-in-law of all time, who then told us one about how everyone kept sneaking into the kitchen to add more salt to the turkey because her husband had always complained that it didn't have enough salt. They had to throw it out. It was inedible. (In fact, I think that's what we did with the rest of that chili!)
When Mom got really sick and was in the terminal stages of lung cancer, we were up in Munising to visit and say a last goodbye.
I was really worried about Dad. He didn't even know how to turn on a washing machine, for crying out loud! And what was going to happen to all of those wonderful-looking vegetables that he was producing in what now was a pretty good-sized patch just outside of town?
I decided that I (yes, moi, the non-cook) was going to have to teach him how to cook vegetables. I mean, there were so many and they looked so wonderful ... I just hated the thought of him not being able to enjoy some of them!
And so we had a cooking lesson. I think we started with green beans. A pan of water. Some salt (not too much!!!). Bring to boil. Simmer. Dad asked, "How can you tell when they are done?" I answered, "Spear one and bite into it." That lesson was so successful that I felt I could leave and he would not starve. At the very least he would be able to cook up some of his fantabulous-looking vegetables!
The freezer in their refrigerator was always crammed full, everything properly labeled and dated. Mom kept a lot of information in her head, but also -- particularly after it was discovered that she was terminally ill -- wrote a lot of things down ... how to reheat this (all in the days before microwave ovens), how to use that, when to throw this other away ... just tons and tons of invaluable information.
I still have a bunch of her notes on my "to do" list of things to sift through. I'm not getting any younger. Need to do that. Don't want to have to make my daughter go through it. Besides, what she'll probably do (I would, if I were she) is simply take one look at the stacks and stacks of stuff and light a fire!