A Peak at Mom’s “Project”

Today would have been my mom’s 71st birthday. I wrote a very emotional blog about her last year and for new followers to this blog, you can read it here:

https://nostalgicitalian.com/2018/04/04/moms-70th/

The Project

Last year, my brother Chris told me that he wanted to create a project that would honor our mom. I have a list of things I am supposed to be doing for this project, and as I sit here remembering her today, I thought I would share one of the things I wrote for our project. I hope my brother doesn’t mind me sharing this here.

“S” Meals

“Just like mom used to make” is a phrase you hear often when someone tries something at a restaurant or when a restaurant is promoting their menu. Maybe YOUR mom cooked like that, but mine did not. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of meals that I would love for her to make for me today. I loved her Impossible Cheeseburger Pie, Meatloaf, and her amazing Tuna Noodle Casserole. I have an old cookbook she had, but I really have no idea how she tweaked those recipes.

Here’s the deal, it wasn’t that mom wasn’t a good cook, the issue was she didn’t change the menu too often. We had a joke in our house – Mom’s menu consisted of “S” meals. What is an “S” meal? Well, it’s just what you think it is – meals that start with the letter “S”. Now, it is a possibility that they were also called “S” meals because they were very simple to make, I don’t know. Here now, is a sampling of mom’s core menu items:

  1. Spaghetti. It was a staple at our house. No surprise, after all, we are Italian. Sadly, her sauce always came out of a jar and was almost always Ragu.
  2. Sausage. She would go to the store and buy one of those rings of Italian sausage and fry it up in one of those square electric fry pans.
  3. Sloppy Joes. Could this meal be any easier to make? Brown up some meat and throw in some Manwich!
  4. Soup and Sandwiches. Two S’s for the price of one! A “combination” “S” meal! This was a frequent meal at our place – usually closer to payday.
  5. Steak. Usually, it was fried up in the square fry pan I mentioned an item or two ago. As kids, we hardly ever ate steak. I’m not sure why we didn’t, maybe it was because a fried steak was almost always tough. Usually when this meal was served, my brother and I opted for the alternate “S” meal, Spaghetti-O’s!
  6. Subs. Let’s be real here – this is really just another form of a sandwich, but served on a roll instead of bread! (Side note: My dad used to make what he called “Flubby’s”, which was a take off of Tubby’s subs. It was ground hamburger, lettuce, tomato, and Italian dressing.)
  7. Swedish Meatballs. Sometimes we called this Sweet and Sour Meatballs or Waikiki Meatballs. As a kid, the taste of these made me want to throw up. As I have grown up, I am actually a big fan of sweet and sour meatballs and chicken. I’d probably like them now. I remember the recipe was on a recipe card, which is sadly long gone.
  8. Salad. Yes. Salad could be a meal at our house. She got a recipe from my great Aunt Lois I think. It was leaf lettuce, vinegar, and grilled bacon. It was actually very good. I may have to see if I can make it sometime.

In a nutshell, those were the meals. We look back on this memory often and laugh. I miss her very much and would give anything to sit and enjoy conversation, food and laughter with her.

One last dinner story

If my mom were still alive, she’d probably kill me for telling this story. This, however, is one of my favorite dinner time stories:

Every now and then, mom would make corned beef and cabbage. Most of the time she’d cook it up in the crockpot, and it would be very tender. There was one time, however, where the corned beef turned out very dry. As we ate it, we were all thinking it, but NO ONE had the courage to speak up and say anything, so naturally, I did. I will say up front that as I look back at it, I regret the way I handled it. It does make a great story, though.

I started by simply saying, “Does this seem a bit dry to anyone else?” This made my dad laugh almost instantly. When he started laughing, I figured this had opened the door for me and allowed me to keep making fun of the meal. I proceeded to do what The Three Stooges would do with something like this. I began to:

  • tug at my throat
  • act like I was choking
  • put one hand on my chin and the other on the top of my head and pretended to force my mouth up and down to make myself chew
  • slam my hands against my chest
  • pound at my shoulder blade like I was choking

All of these things made my dad laugh. They made my brother laugh. My mother, however, was not happy. You could see her getting more and more angry with each of my actions.

She finally threw down her fork and stormed off to her room and slammed the door. My dad, brother, and I all sat in silence at the table for some time. I think my dad went to make peace, but the damage was done. I didn’t understand at the time, and she even laughed about it later (much later). It hurt her very bad that day. I apologized for this more times than I can remember. I still feel bad about it today.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mom. I miss you and I love you. I would give anything in the world to have a piece of that dry corned beef with you right about now….

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