Edna Staebler coined the phrase Food That Really Schmecks, which is also the title of her cookbook series based on Mennonite home cooking. While I’m not a Mennonite, my Dutch genes have helped me to be a pretty good cook. My ex might argue that point, but that is why he is my ex. My current spouse shakes his head at my ex’s opinion of my cooking, because according to him my salads and main courses rock! And even some of my desserts. Woo hoo!!
As you might know from previous stories, I’m not the best baker, nor are desserts my forte. Those Dutch dessert-making genes went to my middle sister.
I do have a knack for putting flavours together and coming up with winning meals. Only I forgot to write down what I did and can’t remember how I did it, so it can’t be replicated.
As a young family many moons ago, we always sat down at the kitchen table for the family supper. My son, who had such a good appetite when he was a baby and toddler, turned into a picky eater. We endured meals punctuated with “just eat it” and “finish your supper,” and “stop talking and eat please.” It even got to the point where we would sing to him Al Yankovic’s “Eat It.” We had to convince him that every meal was chicken. It was the only way he would eat his dinner.
As he got older and a slight bit wiser, he asked why chicken looked different each day. My answer, “Because your mother is a genius in the kitchen. She knows how to make it look and taste different, so you don’t get bored.”
As a teen he often skipped meals. Friends and skateboarding took precedence over family meals, but the next day, the platter of leftovers would be gone, along with much else from my fridge.
He refused to learn how to cook, thinking perhaps he’d live with Mom for the rest of his life and she would always provide. Young adulthood soon burst that bubble.
Off to college in Toronto, where he learned that fried eggs on toast (the only meal he could make) could quickly get boring. He became inventive — fried egg on toast with lettuce, or with kale and chopped carrots. The many variations of fried eggs on toast were original, to say the least. Soon it was a steady diet of Mr. Noodles — raw or cooked. To be replaced with kale, sliced apples and peanut butter licked off the spoon.
When his schooling took him to Ottawa, trips home were few and far between. His diet of kale and sliced apples with globs of peanut butter continued. Soon he learned how to make rice. Pasta with canned sauces became a staple and was added to his growing culinary arsenal.
He came home for a visit at Christmas and I planned all his favourite meals. Listed them out to which days I was making them. He never missed a meal. Made it a priority to be home on time, sat down with his family, and lapped up every dish, asking for second and thirds. We didn’t have to say, “just eat it” or “finish your supper,” or even “Santa is watching.”
His lips smacked with murmurs of “Mmmm” as he ate. When he was done, said, “That was so good Mom.” I smiled benignly, and patted myself on the back because — my food really schmecks.