On Cooking: 18 Months Later

Since I started my weekly baking experiments, I remembered an old blog post that I wrote about how I want to learn to cook. It isn’t going to be about perfection. For me, cooking is turning into honoring the people I miss every day. It is not a coincidence that the first thing I try to bake is my “grandfather’s recipe” for bread. While this summer I did not do any grilling, the year wasn’t entirely wasted. I did my grandfather proud with the bread.

For those too lazy to click the link, I’ve included the entire post here.

Currently, I’m reading Heat by Bill Buford. It’s a memoir of his time in Mario Batali’s restaurant, Babbo. One of the sous-chef’s taught Bill how to, “cook with love.” He goes on to write that the success of a meal is determined by how much love is included in the preparation. Simply put, this sums up my entire families history of cooking.

What made my father’s pancakes the best pancakes in the world was not how he tweaked the recipe. It was the amount of care he put into each batch—and anyone who had ever eaten breakfast at my house can attest to that fact. My dad wanted to make sure that everyone who ate at our table knew that they loved.

My dad cooked breakfast for Tony and I from kindergarten to high school. On those rare occasions where my mom had to “fill in” she invariably got it wrong. She didn’t know what my dad called the various breakfast items (all star-wars references, of course). Also, breakfast wasn’t her thing. As much as my mom loved tony and I, breakfast wasn’t he way of showing how she cared.

With one major exception.

My mom made Crepes once the year after my dad died. If breakfast was his thing, then crepes were his specialty. Technically, this is brunch—but I don’t want to be too bogged down in minutiae. This was his Mother’s day gift to my mom. The meal was always this: Home-made crepes, home-made maple-butter, chicken livers in Madeira sauce, bacon, sausage and Mimosa’s. Tony and I were to clean the table and do the dishes. A few times, I made sure that fresh flowers were available for my mom too. It is impossible to understate how my dad prepared this meal and what it meant to my mom.

I want to say she made it on Mother’s day. I spent the night at home, Tony and Jackie came for brunch. She spent the morning attempting the recipe, trying to make the maple butter and getting the crepes perfect. I think she even did the chicken livers. The hardest part of the meal was cooking the crepes right. We had this persnickety old crepe maker, and according to my mom, only my dad knew how to use it. After she ruined the first five crepes, she threw a fit.

According to my mom, she slammed the lid of the crepe maker down and, nearly in tears yelled, “Alright Pat, I know this is your meal, but I am going to make it. Either you help me or you get the hell out of my kitchen.” Her next crepe cooked in the shape of a heart. She said it was cooked perfectly.

That is how I want to cook. I want to master all the recipes that my mom and dad had: From the grilling to crepes. This means I am going to need more people to cook for.

This also means I an going to have to buy groceries instead of a variety of beer.

7 thoughts on “On Cooking: 18 Months Later

  1. Hm. It’s interesting to read this. I don’t really think of you as a “chef,” but I also have a number of potent Marty Meal Memories. (Your Grandfather’s black bean soup primary among them. I never could replicate that dish. Yours was better.)
    In any case, preserving the Gleason cooking tradition sounds good. I’ll take the hit, and show up for a meal anytime.

  2. Cooking (of the “immured in the kitchen all day” vareity) is almost a religious act for me. I don’t do enough of it.

    I do, however, have possession of the family lasagne recipe. Very nice, of course, with a lambic.

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