Sunday, January 22, 2006

soup and more soup


I was out for dinner last night at the friend of some friends, a dinner where everything was very good, but most especially the potato soup. I'm planning on begging for the recipe. The soupmaker, K, apologized for it before hand, reminding me so strongly of my mother, who often stood by the table, wiping her hands on a dish towel and listing all the things that were wrong with a dish that a tableful of guests were slurping and drooling over. She was a perfectionist, and she didn't want us to like the apricot chiffon pie or the stuffed pork chop unless we knew how wonderful it could have been, if only she'd done this or that, or hadn't run out of the other.
One of my thoughts about this blog was that I'd cook some of the things that she cooked, recipes I've never attempted. For a long time, there was no need for me to make the black walnut cake or the torte, because my mother would be doing it, sooner or later. And then, poof, she was gone--she and my father both died in 1999, and all that was left of her lifetime of superlative cooking were taste memories, a dozen or so cookbooks, and a pile of recipes in a black folder held together by crossed rubber bands, one red and one blue.
My first venture in this direction was the torte, which I made for Christmas dinner. It's a meringe torte, a kind of dacquoise (sp?), I think, that she got out of some magazine in the '50s. Two layers of slow-baked meringue, filled and frosted with whipped cream mixed with chopped cherries and pineapple. It's the kind of food that seems like more than the sum of its parts.
I agonized over it somewhat, especially when I had trouble getting the layers out of the pans (and had to patch it all together with extra gobs of whipped cream). And just as my mother had, I warned of dire consequences to anyone who touched it as it sat in state in the refrigerator, or moved, or even breathed on it too heavily. It was pretty good, but like my mother, I feel constrained to tell you that it was a little squat, not quite as pretty as my mother's were, and that I wondered if I might have put in a little more pineapple than I did.
My plan now is to start going through her cookbooks and follow the bookmarks (old envelopes, shopping lists, ancient Christmas and get-well cards) and the food-stains marking favorite recipes. Swedish Meatballs, anyone? Veal Stew and Dumplings? Stuffed Cabbage?

4 comments:

Alice said...

Neat idea! I was given my grandmother's recipe card box and I love looking through it...still haven't made much from there, though.

lucette said...

I wish I had recipes from my grandmother, but she was one of those great cooks who had nothing written down, everything in her head. If you wanted to know how she made something you had to stand by and watch her. But I was only 13 when she died, and not yet interested much in cooking, and certainly not, for instance, in making pierogi.

Kitchen Queen said...

LOL, this sounds so much like me! I'll be doing a post on potato soup soon, I hope you get your recipe and post it so we can compare!

Rinn said...

My mom's dilemma right now is that my grandmother was an amazing cook and baker, yet all she left were lists of ingredients and vague, cryptic directions written on scraps of paper. My mom has never been able to duplicate her "magic."