The first Mother’s Day that I remember was back at my dad’s parents’ apartment in Evanston, Illinois. A handful of different family members were hanging out in the dining room area with the best prize of them all, some of chocolate “pops” (you know, chocolate on a stick, molded into a shape). These were molded in the shape of a mother, looking a lot like you might see The Madonna in various portraits. Of course, not being a mother, I wasn’t allowed to have one. The temptation of their sweet, chocolatey goodness quickly led to anger and frustration that I was not allowed to have one and led to one of the best parent-child question and answer sessions I have ever witnessed.
Young Michael: “There’s a Mother’s Day and there’s a Father’s Day. But when is Kid’s Day?”
Mom (or maybe Dad, I can’t remember)(after waiting a beat for effect): “Every day is Kid’s Day”
Brilliant! Ironically, I most of these memories came flooding back this morning when I had that exact same conversation with Hannah while we were making breakfast for Susie. I smell a family tradition!
I have been fortunate to have two wonderful, mother-type women in my life. The first would be my actual mother
and the second would be
the mother of my children (sorry, there is just something about that phrase that irks me. It sounds so sterile and clinical, like a business transaction or something. I never liked ‘fiancee’ either. I think I need to start a book of phrases that I can’t stand. Wait, where was I? Oh yeah…) my wife, with whom I have 2 very wonderful daughters.
So to honor both of them, I am going to keep up with theme for most big occasions this year on the blog and make a brief list. And while I recognize that moms do a whole lot more than cook, the fact if the matter is I am a guy who thinks with his stomach (I mean come on, I had a status update about a 3am Hostess Pie last night! What more proof do you need…) So, I am going to list the top culinary creations that my mom and my wife make. I am going to start with Susie, because entrees come before desserts (unfortunately).
A brief interlude, before I start. Susie is under the impression that she cannot cook at all. This is wholeheartedly untrue. She is actually very good at it. Whether this is a recently developed skill or not, I am unsure since neither of us tried to make anything fancy when we were first married. But I do know that somewhere in the past 5 years or so, Susie became inspired by a certain someone
5) Chicken Burgers – When this was first concept was first proposed to me, I think doubtful would be the kindest word I could attach to my thoughts. However, I gave it a try and they were phenomenal. Not only that, it even included decent amounts of spinach, and I still ate it. And eat them frequently.
4) Chili – The 2 keys that put this on the list are that it contains beans (sorry to break your hearts all you “No Beans in the Chili” people out there) and it is not watery. This recipe gets pulled out any time we are having some friends over for a sporting event. (Which hopefully will be more often now that we have a good TV in the living room and give me the benefit of having chili more often.)
3) Five Spice Beef – This creatively named dish is everything I could ask for, spicy and also with beef. It is fantastic and for convenience, there is a spice jar out there that is called Chinese Five Spices.
I am not sure what else Susie does to the beef to make it taste so fabulous, but it does and I am getting hungry just thinking about it.
2) Park City Chicken – For the longest time, this was on the top of the list. Nothing would ever be able to beat it. Now, the one drawback to this dish is that it is really spicy and also saucy. Now you might be saying that you don’t understand where the drawback comes in, considering the previous 2 items were rather spicy. The problem comes that this dish was so spicy that Susie refuses to eat it. And if she isn’t going to eat it, it isn’t worth making for just one person, especially when 3 other people have to eat. The toughest question of all to answer about this item on the list is… “Does it’s value get bump up because it is the ‘Holy Grail’ of dinner entrees?” While this is entirely a possibility, deep in my heart I truly believe it was just that good. If anyone out there is working on a time machine, I would love to go back to the date when Susie made this dish so I could have some more and make an independent decision.
1) Ribs – This entree came out of no where on one glorious winter day, just a few months ago. Susie had been making ribs in the crock-pot for a handful of years, they tasted good, she was doing a fine job. Then, for reasons that are not quite clear, Susie decided to
think outside the box to try out a different recipe. Maybe because this version took less time and didn’t need to sit in the crock-pot most of the day. But no matter what the inspiration, the end result is the best ribs I have ever eaten in my life. (And this includes The Homestead, a restaurant that used to be in Blue Island, Illinois. This place really deserves its own post some day.)
Once you have your fill of dinner, it is time to move onto desserts. My mom does a fine job of cooking other things as well, but I personally have been under the addictive powers of some of her top-notch baked goods. So, here is my list of dessert items.
5) Fried pancake – okay, so technically this is not a dessert. But they are dessert-like and I have been spending my entire adult life trying to exactly recreate how my mom makes these wonderful crunchy orbs from heaven.
4) Mint brownies – 2 Christmases ago, we went back home to hang out for a few days. One of my personal goals for that time was to learn what the recipe was for the next items on the list. When I saw how this items was made, I quickly saw why these are so unbelievable. I don’t want to give too many secrets away, but suffice to say I found out why these brownies are so good. And the answer is not going to be something your doctor or your waistline appreciates, but no matter, it was tremendous. Melted chocolate chips and butter as the frosting.
3) Cherry-Peek-a -Boo – An ingeniously simple design. Make some pound cake dough, put it in a pan, then drop in generous amounts of cherry pie filling, bake and you have gotten one of the best desserts on the face of the planet, especially once you factor in a light sprinkling of powered sugar.
2) Chocolate chip cookies – This is the one thing one the list that I have mastered.
What makes these cookies so fabulous is not the recipe itself, but the execution. Don’t waste time making individual cookies to put on the tray. Just spread the dough over an entire 13×9 pan, bake, cut and serve. Then again, maybe my mom and I both have some kind of magic touch (or at least a magic pan, which is Susie’s theory).
1) Gooey Butter Cake – The name just says it all. One of the best things I have eaten in my life. The memories alone of eating this cake, make my stomach talk very loudly. To some degree, this item used to get “Park City Chicken” treatment. Mom hadn’t made this in a LONG time. One year I asked her to make it again, which she lovingly obliged to do. Tragically, upon tasting, it was not the same. I was crushed. I thought this was just another memory that my mind had trumped up to
augment a dorky complement and awesome childhood. The taste was so close, and yet not quite right. Thankfully, the mystery was solved a few years later, when I went to make this tremendous dessert myself. The key to the entire flavor was the chopped peanuts on top of the cake (with the revolver in the Study.) It was at that moment that I will never forget.
As I mentioned before, both my mom and my wife add to my life in so many wonderful ways, besides cooking. I just wanted to show them my appreciation for all that that have done and continue to do for me. So, to all of the moms, grandmoms, stepmoms and all of those maternal figures out there molding the lives of our youth, the world is a much better place because of you. Can I offer you a cookie?