Growing Up Out Proctor: Mom’s Cooking
Mom liked to cook and always put an abundance of food on the table, including lots of vegetables fresh from our garden or canned by her, meat (almost always chicken or ham), and ample dessert, of course. However, high cuisine and variety did not describe Mom’s servings. For example, we ate so many fried eggs for breakfast that to the present day, it still is a challenge for me to look at eggs, much less eat them. Ditto for chicken, which we had so often for dinner.
The first time I took my future wife Teri home to West Virginia, she was surprised by the healthiness of the dinner Mom had prepared. On the table was an impressive range of freshly picked home-grown vegetables but no meat. This quickly proved to be an illusion, however, for after we started eating Mom jumped up and yelled “I forgot the meat!” She reached in the oven and brought out (what else) baked chicken, oozing in chicken fat.
Mom was well known for her homemade noodles. Although she rolled her noodles out with a rolling pin, they were always thick and lumpy and more like long lumpy bricks than flat noodles.
The noodles had a fat content and density that seemed to defy the laws of science. It’s amazing the noodles didn’t set up like concrete in the eaters’ innards, and they would have been formidable in a food fight. You either loved ’em or hated ’em. More people loved them than not.
Mom also was known for her homemade bread. Kids loved having slices of her bread straight out of the oven, slathered with lots of butter. Mom made bread in quantity and after she made bread, the kitchen always was a disaster zone. My sister-in-law Arlene could be highly theatrical, so it was hilarious to watch her demonstrate Mom’s bread making technique. To paraphrase Arlene: “Ginny would place a huge mixing bowl on the table. Next, she would open a twenty-five pound sack of flour, hold it under one arm, and sling her hip, dumping flour into the bowl. Billows of flour dust floated up and landed everywhere in the kitchen. Then Mom would put a big bucket of lard under one arm and reach in with the other for handfuls of lard and fling the lard into the flour. THWUMP, and another cloud of flour filled the air. The lard addition and dust clouds generation until Ginny judged by eyeball that the right amount of lard had been added.” Other ingredients were added with similar unmeasured finesse. While visualizing this process, you need to remember that my mother, as Arlene sometimes said, was “a lot of woman.” We kids of course were oblivious to the mess and loved to eat the bread she made.
Also, Mom’s chocolate fudge was remarkable both for volume and sugar content. It was always on the table so anyone to take as much as they wanted – a reason kids (and adults) loved to hang out at her house.