I can safely say, having grown up in a Jewish family, that Jews are into food in a big way. As the old joke says, every Jewish holiday can be summed up thusly: “They attacked us, we won, let’s eat!”
In light of that, I’d like to pay homage to my dear late mom – a sort of sub-category of Jewish mother. Many women of her time (born in 1912) stayed home with their children, all the while cooking up a storm.
But my mom was a little different than most, as she worked six days a week, alongside my dad in their small dry-goods store, from the time I was about seven. Consequently she was not able to spend hours slaving over a hot stove as her own mother had.
She did have her favourites, and would cycle through them almost like clockwork. I always knew that sooner or later, her usual go-tos would come around again: chicken omelet, liver and mashed potatoes, “shoulder” steak (which I’ve never quite been able to find in the supermarket meat aisle), salmon cutlets, hamburgers and the like. Simple fare. Usually these dishes would be accompanied by some form of starch, such as potatoes, plus the quickest sides – canned peas and carrots… canned corn… canned green beans… are we sensing a theme here? 😀
And of course, no meal could be considered complete without dessert – canned peaches, canned fruit cocktail… Let’s face it, my sweet mom kept canners in business practically single-handedly! (She also thus handed down a ‘sweet tooth’ to me, as I now do not consider a meal formally over unless it’s capped by something that has sugar in it.)
I remember another couple of cute quirks my mother had. One was this: no matter what meal she was eating, she would begin planning the next one. We’d be having lunch, slurping soup, say, as a prelude to a “lovely” omelet (one of her favourite food modifiers was “lovely”) – and she’d already be talking about her plans for supper! I confess this caused my brother and me to practise our ‘eye-rolls.’
There was another thing she’d do. We’d be having Jell-O for dessert, for instance, and maybe my brother or I would casually mention that we liked the strawberry flavour she’d served us. Big mistake! She would then say, “Okay! Gonna make it all the time!” More eye-rolls ensued, as we kids realized we were now stuck with strawberry Jell-o for the next three months or so, with no relief in sight!
I’m ashamed to admit we stopped saying we liked anything, lest we be fed the darn thing practically non-stop!
One last memory: who else had to down half a teaspoon of cod-liver oil every single day before breakfast?
It must’ve worked. None of us ever had rickets.