Mom and Dad were very practical parents as my brothers and I were growing up. In our teens, they determined that we needed to have well-rounded skills to be an adult, which included learning the other gender’s normal tasks. If I was going to continue to be allowed to drive our 1961 Ford Falcon, I had to learn to change a tire, fill the radiator, oil and windshield washer fluid, and wax the car. Under the watchful eye of my father, I learned, because I wanted that automobile freedom.
My brothers, under the tutelage of my mother, learned to sew on a shirt button, hem a pant leg, and cook a basic meal. Mom took them to the grocery store and bought them each a whole raw chicken. They picked whatever he wanted from the produce aisle as sides. Back home, the lunacy began. With a twinkle in their eye they posed the bird in strange ways in the roasting pan. Then came the lesson on cutting up the bird. If you can only imagine; teen-aged boys, sharp knives, an exasperated mother/teacher, and non-stop giggling…..the end result of prepping was like a Grade B slasher movie. A few hours later, a delicious dinner was had, although lacking any visual presence.
Any school activity requiring a bake sale item or a pot-luck dish was our personal responsibility. Mom would check in from time to time – mostly to ensure the house wasn’t going to burn down, but to also gasp at the hideous concoctions made from too much food coloring in the icing and other decorating/presentation choices. Mom was the A1+ perfect mom. Her daily meal prep was nutritious and always freshly made. Because of her daily consistency of cooking from scratch, with veggies grown from Dad’s garden, we all assumed that this was normal, and we came to expect it. We didn’t appreciate how good we had it.
The photo of Mom in her black Rockettes t-shirt was so Mom. She loved her NYC roots. She loved her Greenpoint Brooklyn Polish background and could match any bopcha’s (Polish grandmother) galumpkis (stuffed cabbage) – . At one art fair or another decades ago, my mother picked up the wooden doll Cooking Makes You Ugly, which she kept perched on the stove. I always tried to take it – pretending to sneak it away right in front of her – only to have her shout “Mitts off! Over my dead body!” It was the 1st item of hers I took after she died. She knew I would take it, and the prophesy was fulfilled. Below is a memory I wrote October 2018 dedicating Pfeffersnaps to my mother.
Pfeffersnaps is dedicated to Doe – Dolores Stephany. My mother Doe, taught me how to move around a kitchen. Start with a published recipe, and add more of the flavors you like and less of the flavors you don’t. Be bold! Make it fun! Make mistakes! Invent something new! Find the pizzazz that tantalizes the taste buds. Doe left this earth on Oct. 6th, but had blessed Pfeffersnaps with her opinions on packaging design as well as recipe before she left us to live with the angels. In honor of her precise (not always) and cavalier spirit in culinary arts, I dedicate Pfeffersnaps to her, with love, and an inaccurate measuring spoon. Amen.