Anyone fancy a hot, tasty, home cooked meal? I guess the answer to that would be ALL of us.
Not all of us are great cooks, but we all have a great story to tell about what an amazing cook mom was.
My Mom was an exceptional cook. She cooked up wonders in the kitchen.
There was no meal that was less tasty than the previous. Unlike us in the present day, with ready made meals sneaking into the menu every now and then, my mom cooked every meal, every day.
First, let me tell you about my Mom.
My mom, Philomena Standen, Dolly or Aunty Dolly to those who knew and loved her lost her parents when she was very young. She lived all her growing years in the convent, brought up by nuns. She had such interesting stories to tell us about her life there. But none of her stories were about learning to cook. So the secret to her cooking was self learning and experimenting after marriage, together with the fact that Daddy encouraged her with praises every time she cooked. And she made some of the best dishes I have ever tasted.
No exotic cuisines, yet wholesome, healthy tasty meals were what we were brought up on. No short cuts to her cooking. Every meal was made from scratch. At a time when a mixer, grinder was still not heard of in every household, she ground all her masalas and spices on the grinding stone. And after she got her first grinder, she still swore that food tasted better when the masalas were ground on the stone 🙂
I vividly remember the enthusiasm with which every meal was laid on the table.
Breakfast was considered the most important meal and so we began our days on a full stomach.
She tried her hand at everything. Idlis, Dosas, Puris, Chapattis and Upma, to name a few.
Oh! not forgetting what we called Hoppers the Anglicised name for Appam.
Except for the Upma everything else was accompanied with Sambar and Chutneys and Potato bhaji.
Lunch was a very yummy meat and vegetable curry, and a vegetable side dish, (did any of you refer to this side dish as Fugad? we did) with rice. Each day a different vegetable and we had to eat it. You need vegetable to stay healthy she would say. How do you expect to be intelligent if you don’t finish the lady’s fingers in your plate? Mom’s logic, no one argued with her.
I remember she made this beef and brinjal curry in this delicious coconut gravy and I hated brinjal. So I would leave all the brinjal pieces around the edge of my plate.
That did not go down well with Mom. So the next time the curry featured in our lunch menu, I was given a healthy serving of brinjal and gravy and NO MEAT and had to finish every last morsel in my plate. Need I say brinjal is now one of my favorite veggies.
We Anglo Indians swear by our Pepperwater. It was and is a must have. It was also the magic potion if we had a cold. This will cure your cold she said, as she handed us a glass of pepperwater, watching as we drank.
The list of dishes made by mom ranged from Pepper Fry, Chilli Fry, Vindaloo, Beef Chops, Brinjal Bake, Cutlets, Coconut rice and Ball curry with Devil’s chutney, Beef Pulav, Fish Molee/Molly (a Kerala style fish stew)and something she called Nice Fry… and if you are wondering what nice fry was… it was the day she just made up her own recipe. 😊😊.
She made Salt fish(dried fish) pickle, we called it Pada(has an East Indian origin) and Brinjal pickle and Guava Jelly. Her pickles were bottled and distributed to friends and family.
I am actually salivating as I write.
Back in the day when I was a kid, the kitchen was functional all day. Unlike the present day, once cooking is done for the day, and your cook has left, the kitchen is closed. So if you feel like a snack, you order in. Once too often.
We always came back from school to an evening snack, served hot.
And when Christmas came, my Mom was always in her elements. She had her routine planned. From the 20th of December every year, the days were set for making Christmas sweets. She made Plum cakes, Ribbon cakes, Sponge cakes, Rose Cookies, Kulkuls and her famous Ginger wine or OT, an Anglo Indian drink that was alcohol free. There was not a single Christmas sweet that was bought. We were all involved in the process of making these sweets. My brother Roche, a little boy then, kneaded all the cake dough, a lot of cake dough it was too. We helped… by tasting it every now and then.
Hours went making the Rose Cookies and Kulkuls and all of us siblings had the best time ever helping Mom.. These are the traditions and memories we hold on to.
I am guilty and regretful of the fact that I never learnt to make any of these sweets. Just took it for granted that Mummy will always be around. I buy all my Christmas sweets and every year hear my daughter Kimberley say – No cake tastes like Nana’s!!
So she decided to make the cakes herself.
There was no day when Mom was too tired to cook so we ordered in, these little pleasures were not available to her back then. Neither did she have a Maggi day… which took just 2 minutes, it says so on the packet :). She cooked and fed us. And we ate whatever was put on the table. Something we need to do with our fussy kids today, make them eat what’s put on the table.
“A Mom’s food brings people together on many different levels. It has a culture. It has History. It has a story. It has relationships. It is the nourishment of the soul and body, it is truly love.”
**All the pictures displayed here are dishes that have been cooked by me, using my Mom’s recipes and some of my own. The strawberry cake is courtesy Kim.**
I am sure all of you reading this will have stories to tell about your Mom’s cooking. Please share them in your comments.
This one is for you My Dearest Mom – In memory of you forever.