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The key ingredient was Mom

I was stumbling around in the attic this week and was delighted to find an old card catalogue stuffed with my mother’s recipes.

I knew it was there somewhere, but had lost track of it. It was like having a visit with my mom when I started sifting through it.

The recipes reminded me that she fixed something different for dinner every single night, plus dessert. Every time I came home, I was likely to find her in the kitchen.

She truly loved to cook and bake and was flawless at both. I blithely gobbled down everything she made, having no idea, until I tried to replicate her recipes, how nuanced and labor intensive her cooking was.

Fudge? We had it every Christmas. I threw away three attempted batches before giving up.

Spare ribs? Hers required four stages, from marinating to oven baking.

And I still cannot make a decent pie crust. Hers were legend.

But just flipping through the recipes was a sweet trip back to the good days of my youth.

They run from cioppino to her cream cheese caviar dip, from the sukiyaki recipe she got from my dad’s Japanese co-workers to what was known as Squadron Casserole. It was a hearty mix of ground beef, noodles, sour cream, tomato sauce, scallions and cheese that every Air Force officer’s wife worth her salt knew how to prepare.

And, it being the era of cocktail parties, there are any number of recipes involving alcohol. One card had five recipes that were better with brandy added.

There were rum-based luau drinks and the recipe for my dad’s whiskey-based party punch that would bring you to your knees.

I swear, the day I retire I am going to start trying to cook up every single recipe. It should keep me busy for several years.

Until then, I will continue to make the most of my microwave, knowing my mother is looking down with loving disapproval.

Jean Gillette is a freelance writer salivating and missing her mom. Contact her at [email protected].

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