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CUP OF PEANUTBUTTER COOKIES
11 May 2008
The latest Morning Story from WGBH is called "The Million Dollar Cookie" and it is the story of one of the contestants in the Pillsbury Bake-Off, Kerstin Sinkevicius, who tells how she developed her Caramel Chai Bar...and what was going on in her life at the time. (I love these stories!)
The story took me back to my childhood and the times that my father would get so excited about his kitchen experiments. My mother has always been an excellent cook, who mostly concentrated on the basics -- roasts, meatloaf, potroast, Mac 'n' Cheese, crispy fried chicken with shoestring potatoes. Yumm. Nobody cooked them better. She was not, as a general rule, however, an experimental cook.
Perhaps her most adventurous cooking was enchiladas. I don't remember a woman named Amalia, but apparently she lived in the flat above my parents when I was very little. She was apparently from Mexico and she made terrific enchiladas and taught my mother how to make them. They were great favorites of everyone, but took two days to make, so my mother didn't make them often.
(In later years, when I finally convinced her to teach me how to make them before she forgot how, I realized that the time-consuming part was that she was making her own chorizo sausage to add to the recipe, and the meat mixture needed to age for two days before being combined with other meats to make up the filling in the enchiladas.)
I don't remember when my father started experimenting in the kitchen. Food was very big in our house and it may be that he began tinkering with recipes when I was quite small. I don't remember when exactly he created his potato salad, but I have not tasted anything like it since (and I am a connoisseur of potato salads), nor any potato salad that I like half as much. The secret, he always told me, was in slicing the potatoes as thin as possible. No chunks in his salad. To the potatoes you added finely chopped onion, Best Foods (or Hellmans) mayonnaise, chopped parsley, hard boiled eggs, and finely chopped sweet pickles. I don't know that I've seen another potato salad recipe that used sweet pickles. But it truly was the best potato salad ever and he made it frequently for picnics and such. I was always his official taster because I loved the potato salad so much.
I also remember one Christmas time when he made egg nog from scratch. I must have been quite young, because I can see the mixer that he used and I don't remember it being around when I was growing up. But it took lots of whipping cream to make a sort of custardy base to which he then added the liquor. I didn't get to taste the liquor version of the egg nog, of course, but I sure loved the egg base.
But perhaps his most memorable recipe experiment was peanut butter cookies. I still don't quite know how he managed to create what we found when we returned home that day. I remember that he was laughing and said that he had tried to make peanut butter cookies but that he must have done something wrong.
My mother always said that my father's cooking philosophy was that if a little of something was good, then a lot of it must be much better.
Well, knowing the ingredients of peanut butter cookies, I still can't imagine what ingredient he had used "a lot of" but what he got was something the consistency of milk. We each had a small glass of "peanut butter cookies," but there was no way these babies were ever going to see the inside of an oven. As I recall, it wasn't even thick enough to be a cake batter.
Forever after, Karen and I teased him about his famous peanut butter cookies. And I don't think he ever tried making them again.
But it's nice to think about my father and his kitchen experiments because the results were usually delicious (heck, even the glass of peanut butter cookie tasted good!) and there were lots of laughs involved in his kitchen adventures. I think they are memories of the parts of my life with my father that aren't clouded by something unpleasant that happened later on. They were just fun times in the kitchen.
* * *
Miracle of miracles, I was able to get to a reclining position last night and went to sleep on the couch for the first time since my fall. It didn't last and I woke up only a couple of hours later and had to move back to the recliner, but it was nice to see progress.
Lizzie was so funny. I have this blanket that I use on the couch, that I had moved to the recliner. Before going to sleep, I tossed it in the general direction of one of the chairs in the living room while I went to the bathroom. When I came out, Lizzie had made a bed on the blanket. I removed her, took the blanket to the couch and went to sleep, and then when I got up and went back to the recliner, I sort of dragged the blanket, Linus-fashion, behind me...Lizzie on top of it determined to make a bed, however temporary, on the blanket!
This morning I was actually able to scoop dog food out of the bin without lifting it up first, though I still can't turn to the right and lean over to get a piece of tissue out of the Kleenex box. But there is definite progress today, which is encouraging.
PHOTO OF THE DAY
Mothers Day Card from Jeri & Phil
MILES TO NOWHERE: 34 miles
I took a fall and pulled a muscle or