Tomorrow is the 2 year anniversary of my mom's death. I find I miss her more than ever as time goes by. She had a special gift of helping people see themselves the way God must see them--loved, valued and infinitely important.
But that's not what I want to talk about today. My mom also loved food. We had a special drink that we made in our house. We called it a "Lemon Juice Drink." (Wow. Weren't we creative?) We squeezed the juice out of a lemon, added water, sugar and salt and stirred it up. Those of us who liked this drink had a sixth sense about when someone was getting a lemon out of the fridge, and we'd hurry into the kitchen to say, "Will you make me one too?" Often I'd get stuck squeezing the lemons while my mom made the actual drink. There was no set recipe to follow, so making the drinks was the best job because the maker would have to sip from each glass until it tasted just right. One time we bought a whole bunch of lemons and sat around the kitchen drinking pitcher after pitcher full. It didn't seem that special at the time, but now that I'm a mom myself, I realize that moments of abundance like that don't come naturally to me. Lemons are expensive, and squeezing them takes time. Sometimes I find myself sneaking lemons out of the fridge when the kids are asleep so that I don't have to share. How sad it would be if this bizarre family drink died with me because I was too selfish to share it with my children.
My mom loved cream cheese wrapped up in pastrami. She said it was almost the only food she ate when she was pregnant with me. She also loved baked potatoes slathered with cheese, sour cream and lemon juice. Perhaps you're noticing a trend here. She liberally seasoned nearly every food she made with lemon pepper. I used to tease her about that mercilessly, but now I'm the same way with garlic.
She never did things in a small way. When I was a kid, we used to make bread--but she always tripled the recipe. She was big on letting us sneak tastes too. We'd take a small bit of dough and dip it in melted butter and then dip it in cinnamon and sugar. Yum. With that bread dough we might make bread, or we might make cinnamon rolls, or maybe even scones (not the British kind--the fried bread dough kind.) But whatever we made, some of it went to a neighbor or two.
My mom hated breakfast. If she was trying to be a good example she could force down a few frosted mini-wheats, but I don't think that was her daily routine. Her favorite breakfast food was Pepsi. She was a Pepsi connoisseur who swore there was a difference between the stuff in the can and the stuff that came out of a soda fountain. It was one of the few things she hated about Maine--there are no soda fountains in the gas stations. A whole state full of deprived people!
I remember how excited she was to eat a lobster in Maine. But when it came, she could hardly eat it because the eyes were staring at her. Still, every time she came to visit, she would say, "We've got to go to the Weathervane restaurant." Restaurants are places to return to--places to get into a routine with. That's the way to make a memory. Whenever we went to the Weathervane, she'd have to stop at the cute little shop next door, and then we'd have to walk down the wharf and look for star fish. I think she had similar routines with all her favorite restaurants.
She always ordered her big macs with extra sauce. She saved the ketchup/mayonnaise packets from Arctic Circle until she learned how to make her own. She would often stop at Su Casa to pick up an order of freshly made chips and salsa and bring it home to snack on as we made dinner.
I'm stopping now, not because I'm out of memories, but because this is already too long. I haven't even mentioned the Green Mint Cookies (we really weren't very good at making up names for our foods, were we?) or the fondue dinners yet. I hope people will share some of their food memories of my mom, because she used food as a tool to do her favorite thing--making memories with the people she loved.