As a child, I loved it when my Mom would go out of town.
Looking back, I'm not even sure that she did it that much. Mom taught high school English, so I don't think she had too many conferences and conventions and out-of-town meetings. But, on those rare occasions when Mom had to leave for a day (or simply just couldn't get home in time for dinner), I loved it because that meant Dad would be cooking for me and my brother, Christopher.
Dad had a couple of dishes in his cooking repertoire. And they did not includes fruits or vegetables or much of anything that would be popular in today's "healthy food" culture.
His signature dish, in fact, was Frito Pie. It consisted of four ingredients. Frito corn chips, canned chili, onions, and grated cheese. And it was delicious.
(Dad was also pretty good at ordering pizza. And he also took me on an almost weekly trek to the Hostess Store, where I got to help select five treats--chocolate cupcakes, honey buns, twinkies--for a dollar. Dad fed my sweeet tooth and my love of indulgent foods.)
While I loved it when Dad made Frito Pie, however, I loved it even better when Mom WAS at home cooking dinner.
Mom was, and is, a wonderful cook and so many of my childhood memories stem from the dishes she whipped up in that small kitchen of my childhood.
Even today, so many years removed from that kitchen, I can smell the scent of Mom's meatloaf, and her macaroni and cheese, and her swiss steak, and her Mexican chicken, and the dish that I'm not even sure ever had a name (it was a wonderful ground beef mixture with green beans, and topped with mashed potatoes and cheese. I guess it was some sort of Southern Shepherd Pie).
As a parent today, I pride myself on being a pretty good cook. And I just hope that I'm instiling some memories of food with my girls.
(McKenna loves my cooking. Delaney is very picky, so very rarely gets to fully enjoy all of my cooking. But Sydney perhaps is my most grateful fan. Just last night she proclaimed that my chicken--soaked in a soy-sauce based marinade, and then enveloped in garlic powder, and then fried--was "the best chicken EVer.)
Every once in a while, my memories of Mom's home cooking intersect with my own attempts to work some magic in the kitchen.
My sweet tooth had begun to pester me a little bit and I knew I wanted to make something.
It needed to be easy. It needed to have chocolate. And it needed to...
Well, it needed to be those cookies that my Mom used to make.
I'd come home from school, or I'd come in from a hard day of playing in the backyard, and Mom would have a plate of this goodness waiting for us. They always put a smile on my face.
I loved them then. And I still love them now. (And, this midday--about 20 hours after making them--they're all gone.)
You've probably had them before. (Shoot, your own Mom probably used to make them for you.) If you haven't, though, here's the recipe...so you can share the goodness with your own family and make some good food memories of your own.
No Bake Chocolate-Peanut Butter-Oatmeal Cookies
2 cups white sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
1/2 cup (one stick) butter or margarine
1/2 cup milk
3 cups quick cooking oats
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
In a saucepan, bring sugar, cocoa, butter, milk, and salt to a rapid boil for a minute. Remove from heat and immediately add oats, peanut butter, and vanilla. Mix well.
(And me? Well, now I'm also thinking about a big ole plate of Frito Pie.)