Tuesday, October 04, 2005

gut buster

Three times in the last week I've eaten at my mother's house, and three times I've come home with a stomach ache.

Please understand, my mother is a gifted cook: Like Jackson Pollock she flings ingredients around the kitchen and somehow yields astounding culinary art. But as with all items of her creation -- children, macrame housewares, the "I'm Not Fat, I'm Pregnant" sweatshirt she wears to aerobics class -- she has a hard time letting go.

Leftovers enter my parents' refrigerator and ripen there until they literally grow their own vocal cords and beg to be returned to the earth whence they came. It's like orchestrating a prison break to throw away food: We need one person to distract my mother, one to guard the kitchen door in case she escapes, one to extract the plates and Tupperware from the back of the fridge, and one poor sucker to open the containers and sniff out the offending remains. Teamwork has been difficult lately, what with my father at work all day and only one kid still living at home, so the fridge has devolved into a petri dish teeming with microbes that wreak havoc on an unaccustomed gut.

At the heart of the matter is an ongoing debate about the definition of "edible": While my father's delicate palate favors what's fresh and healthy, my mother operates on the more basic principle that whatever doesn't kill you makes you stronger, if a little queasy.

But I have to give the lady credit for being resourceful. Bananas gone black? Bake 'em into bread. Bruised peaches on sale at the farmer's market? I smell a cobbler... Cucumber rotted to a milky pulp? Hope you like gazpacho!

Okay, I exaggerate. A little.

The top five phrases uttered in my mother's kitchen:

  • "Just scrape if off."
  • "It's supposed to smell like that."
  • "I know it's not rotten because I had it for lunch today!"
  • "When did you make this brisket?" "Hannukah." "Which year?"
  • "(sniff sniff) Phew! I'll make this into soup."
You see, my Mom lives in an alternate reality; A world in which no food is ever past its prime, and there exists no foul flavor that cannot be vanquished with copious amounts of garlic and whichever herbs and spices are on hand. To her credit, she makes everything taste fantastic. But I've learned the hard way that it's my responsibility to eat around foods not fit for human consumption. So next time you notice me sniffing my soup, or inspecting my salad, or peeking between the layers of my lasagna, please don't think me odd or tell me to "just relax and eat it already." This is one habit I don't intend to break.


momyblogR said...

I think perhaps our Mother's were recipe pen pals. LOL!! This all sounds freakishly familiar.


The Daily Rant said...

My mother subscribes to the "just scrape it off" theory. The burnt toast, the moldy cheese, the hard yellow crust on the butter. lol

My mother makes great basic stuff, but my father was the Jackson Pollock of our kitchen. Thank God I have his gene in that department.

Love the posts about your Mom. Great reading!

always write said...

Yeah, I was in junior high school before I realized bananas are supposed to be yellow. But no Hostess cupcake ever measured up to the banana bread Mom put in my lunchbox each week; Everyone wanted to trade with me.

twosox said...

I have a new favorite recipe for banana bread -- in the New Gourmet

I think it has something like 3 whole sticks of butter in it... and toasted shredded coconut. Mmmmmmm....

Lior said...

God, I hate when my mom pulls the "I just had it today" to the expired cottage or any other given milk product.


I just don't get it.


Anonymous said...

This one made me laugh out loud in the library! Nice work as usual. You can't fault her for making us a home cooked hot meal every night - we could have been eating Roy Rogers.

always write said...

Ladies and gentlemen: My brother, The Mama's Boy.

Velvet said...

Your mom is just like my dad. BTW, I'm commenting on your post "gut buster" - not sure of the date, but early October.