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May 28, 2008 05:56 AM


What are your favorite MAMA FOOD memories?

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  1. My mother was one of those inventive, intuitive cooks who could turn poverty (Dad, after 10 years in the Air Force, back to school on the GI Bill with five children) into culinary delight. I remember her "Tuna Timbales" made with "day old" bread, cheap tuna, onions, celery, sale margarine, and her clever seasonings. She would line muffin tins with margarined bread and fill this with the tuna mixture and bake it into a savory lightness. These elegant little muffin-sized yummies were served with a cream sauce probably made with powdered milk.. but she pulled it off with grace! If the GI Bill check was late and even the powdered milk was gone, we would be served our water with ice in wine glasses.

    When we finally became more prosperous and could have turkey for Thanksgiving again, another enduring memory is helping make the stuffing early in the morning. My reward for chopping onions and celery and slicing melba toast was the deliciously seasoned boiled neck. She and I would lean against the counter gnawing on that delicious neck meat. Good memories..

    2 Replies
    1. re: fromagina

      I didn't much pay attention to my mother's food, although she could fry and whip up Italian like nobody's business, but her baking? Oh wow.

      Pies - banana cream, apple, coconut custard, chiffon, pecan, lemon meringue; cakes, donuts, an almond paste cream puff confection, profiteroles, cookies galore, ricotta cheesecake, blueberry cheesecake, mousse -- and I wonder why I have sweet teeth?

      1. re: fromagina

        what a cool memories, I look forward to the rest.

      2. I owe my love of eating and cooking to my mother's talent in the kitchen. My parents were poor post-WWII immigrants to Canada so every dollar was stretched until hard work paid off in a modicum of prosperity many years later. But, man, the delicious aromas, and food that truly schmecked.

        2 Replies
        1. re: mrbozo

          where were they from and what did she make?

          1. re: salad man

            My folks were from Estonia.

            My mother made many German, Estonian and generic East European dishes.: sauerbraten, rouladen, cabbage rolls (both tomato sauce and mushroom sauce versions), pirokas (Estonian perogies which are baked rather than boiled or fried: fillings are numerous but my favourite is ham, egg and onion), borscht, kotelet (pork chop served with mushroom and onion gravy laced with black pepper and rice on the side), the ubiquitous chicken soup (sometimes with ground pork meatballs which were seasoned with cloves and other secret herbs and spices), head cheese (served with the choice of strong mustard, vinegar, or horseradish), kugel, coffee cake, homemade drop doughnuts, trifle, herring 101 ways, smoked herring, mackerel, salmon, or any other suitable fish, potatoes with fresh chopped dill, a spread for coarse dark rye bread made with chopped schmaltz herring sauteed onions and tomato paste, stroganoff, bliny, etc.

        2. My mother is also one of those natural cooks, she learned southern soul food cooking & baking from her mother and haute cuisine from 30 years as a country club waitress. She never eats out anymore, because she knows she can make it better. Sunday it was baked Shad with Cornbread and Edemame succotash. Tonight it is Grilled Lamb Shanks, grilled vegetables, Naan and Tomato & Feta Salad. It is not only her cooking
          but her generosity in what she makes, if she knows you like a certain food and she makes it, then you get a phone call, I live for those calls! I often tease her about "hitting the lottery" while she may never be rich in wealth she has put a smile on many people's face. She has taught me sharing food is just as important as eating it.

          1. I have written about my childhood before on CH, but everytime I have to put together my Mama AND Grandmama. Both were (are? Mama is still alive) Holocaust survivors who experienced real starvation in Europe during the war. Grandma lived with us, shared my room until I was 6 when she re-married and went back to live in Europe. Growing up kosher and of Hungarian background in WASPy central Ohio in the 1960's when everyone was Wonder Bread, Miracle Whip and dinner @ 6 p.m. really made us stand out.

            Mama/Grandma believed in real bakery bread, no Wonder Bread for us. To this day, the smell of warm bread and butter is a trigger to be hungry. They cooked a lot of Jewish Hungarian food - stuffed peppers or cabbage, boiled pickled tongue (wonderful cold with cole slaw & potato salad!), pot roast, brisket, latkes, chicken paprikash (no sour cream, we were kosher!), half sour pickles which Grandma made from scratch in the summer. We picked berries and they made homemade preserves, strudel from apples or sour cherries, honey cake, Hungarian poppyseed coffee cake. From sour cherries, they made their own slivovitz, distilled in 100 proof alchohol, this is wonderful served over pound cake or fruit salad.

            Truly I never felt impoverished, although we didn't have much money. They could take a whole turkey and make it last a week getting roast meat, leftover casserole, soup, etc. They taught me never to waste anything and that you could make something tasty out of just about whatever ingredients were at hand. My father had a business failure while I was in elementary school, I guess we were down to our last $100. My mother, brother & I gathered up all the pop bottles in the neighborhood, you got a few cents for recyclying them. We had collected about $15-20. We went to the grocery store on an "adventure" and had a math lesson from my mother as to what staples we could buy from that money to last the week. This was not during the depression, maybe 1968 or 1970. But, a wonderfully positive attitude to life in general. We reminisce these stories at holidays with my mother and give thanks for the bounty we are now able to enjoy.

            4 Replies
            1. re: Diane in Bexley

              Chourice, peppers and onions in tomato sauce on a Portuguese roll.

              1. re: Diane in Bexley

                Thanks for your lovely memoir of Hungarian Jewish food. I sent it to my 84 year old Hungarian Jewish friend and now we are getting ready to make some pickled tongue! She wonders if you remember pickled cherries?

                1. re: fromagina

                  Yes! We pickled cherries. I laugh at the "new" concept of slow food and using the bounty found in your local area because that is how we were taught at home eons ago. There was a rhyme and reason to the growing season, we spent time driving in the country to find farm stands carrying the freshest produce and fruit, then we brought it all home and cooked it up. We home canned veggies until my progressive mother learned how to "quick freeze" them, she scraped up money to buy a huge stand alone freezer into which we poured all our labors of love.

                  Please send me your recipe for pickled tongue, if you can. The Jewish butcher recently closed here and we can't get it any longer. Mother is coming to visit from Florida and we would like to try it as well, unfortunately she no longer remembers how. Thanks!

                  1. re: Diane in Bexley

                    I've sent my friend a bunch of pickled tongue recipes gleaned from the web to check out to see which comes closest to her memory. The pickled tongue my Siberian Jew x Buryat grandfather made is relatively simple.. simmer big fat tongue in water with a few dollops of apple vinegar, palm-full of mustard seed, palm-full of black peppercorns, 2 fat pinches of caraway seeds, 1 pinch of celery seed, a few allspice, a bay leaf, some whole un-peeled cloves of garlic, and a few pinches of kosher salt; Simmer until a skewer poked into the tongue says it's tender. Remove tongue, skin it and trim it (I love the trimmings chopped on a sandwich with homemade mustard and horseradish). Strain cooking liquid and reduce it to about 2 1/2 to 3 cups. Adjust flavor by maybe adding some more vinegar, ground pepper, some grated or prepared horseradish.. your call. Slice the tongue and return it to the hot reduced liquid. Cover and let cool in the liquid. At this point I add slices of red onion and some fresh celery leaves and maybe some sliced garlic. Refrigerate a few days and enjoy!. I'll let you know which recipe my friend chose.

              2. Pierogis and cabbage rolls, baby. Mmm, mm, good.