Remembering Mama’s Kitchen

A Guest Post by Kiril Kundurazieff of OpinionatedPussycat.com

 

For every man who loves to cook, there is usually a Mother who taught him the ways of the kitchen. She readily rhapsodizes about how her son’s “legs are hollow” and how he loves to eat, especially food she prepared.

While a ton of studies that say veggies are good for what ails you and help you to live longer and healthier, that’s still not going to stop kids the world over from saying to their Mothers, “Uh- uh!  I’m STILL not gonna touch the stuff! Go ahead, ground me!”

 

Mom: Eat your veggies, dear.

Me at six years old: I don’t wanna!

Mom: You want to have strong muscles like Popeye, don’t you?

Me: Yeah, but…

Mom: No but’s, young man. Clean your plate or no dessert!

Me: Awww, Ma. Do I have to?

Mom: Yes, now hurry up.

Me: Awww… man. Okay.  (picks at food, mixing green stuff with the other stuff to make it go down easier).

Don’t tell me you don’t have similar childhood memories.

My Mother died much too young, at 61, having lovingly cared for and fed her bachelor live-at-home son for the first 30 years of his life.  As I sit here remembering fondly what I can of those long ago years, I find myself regretting that I did not commit to memory, or to notebooks, all that I watched, and helped Mom create in the kitchen. I learned to cook well enough for bachelor survival — thanks to Mom. Why didn’t I save those recipes? Moms are supposed to live forever, right?

My memories begin with my early teen years and the smell of pots of apricots and peaches cooking on the kitchen stove. And also on the stoves in the homes of my Uncle and Aunt and a woman I called Granma Leona. The fence separating our property from that of my Aunt and Uncle had a wonderful grapevine the length of it along with several apricot trees. Lester and Leona had apricot, peach and lemon trees, too, as did our family.

My sisters and I as youngsters helped pick the fruit which, of course, we also got to eat. It’s a wonder that Cesar Chavez didn’t show up to “organize the workers” and protest the use of child labor! As kids, we got plenty of exercise picking fruit. We learned the value of hard outdoor work and later, I even got paid by Leona for my labors.

Here’s where my exposure to the mysteries of the kitchen began. All of those women were big canners, so I eventually learned to appreciate home-canned veggies. My Mom taught me the best sizes and brands (Ball and Kerr) of jars, lids and rims. She used a pressure cooker mostly. I remember the women, each in their separate Kitchen Kingdoms, spending all day and half the night, for several days, cooking and stocking the cans on shelves in their garages.

In the summertime, with windows and doors open, you could smell simmering fruits of all types half way down the block, in either direction, from our house. Some off the tree; others bought at local Farmer’s Markets or the supermarket. Our neighbors’ families also benefited from this bounty. I remember carrying boxes of empty jars into the kitchens, and boxes of full jars back out to the shelves, as well as back and forth between the homes. Later I wondered why I never developed the strong muscles of a bodybuilder after all those years of lifting and carrying!

Now, I admit to not being a vegetarian. The things I learned to cook and eat in the glory days of my youth would no doubt curl the hairs of some reading this. I own quite a few cookbooks, including slow cookery and stews to five ingredient and healthful recipes. I even have one book on cooking vegetarian. I’ve looked through them over the years, with the intent to cook some recipes, but always got sidetracked. Writing this post has made me more determined to cook again.

When I venture forth on my Bachelor Survival Recon Missions to the local market, including Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods from time to time, I’ve learned to make healthier choices, including whole grain options and turkey or chicken over other options from my youth. Oh, and veggies, too!

Mom and Leona would be proud that I, in my middle age, am willing to give up commercially-canned veggies and switch to frozen. Maybe I’ll even move on from there.

  

 

Recipe: Fragrant Apricot Rice

This recipe is adapted from Fragrant Apricot Rice by Rita~ of Food.com. Photo by Cookgirl.

Fragrant Apricot Rice
Author:
Cuisine: Vegetarian
Recipe type: Side dish
Serves: 4
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 4 ounces diced onions (1 medium)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ⅛ ounce ginger (size of an American quarter), peeled
  • ½ tablespoon coriander seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 ounces dried apricots, diced
  • ⅓ cup white wine
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cups hot water or 2 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 -2 tablespoon crushed cashews
Directions
  1. In a hot heavy bottom pan, heat butter and oil.
  2. Saute onion, garlic and ginger until translucent.
  3. Add coriander seeds, basil, rice and apricots.
  4. Stir in white wine until absorbed
  5. Add zest and water simmering covered over low heat for 30-35 minutes
  6. Fluff with fork and season with salt and pepper
  7. Top with cashews and garnish with fresh basil

 



Many thanks to Kiril Kundurazieff of Houston, Texas as he enters in the wonderful world of guest posting and ventures into more healthful eating. Kiril has been writing poetry, reporting, storytelling and blogging for ten years. He has created more than 4500 blog posts of original content for his blogs which include Musings of a Mad Macedonian and Meowsings of an Opinionated Pussycat with which cats Nikita and Elvira assist.

 

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5 Comments

  1. Ann Casey February 11, 2013 at 9:48 AM #

    Beautiful memories…great points…and a kickbutt recipe I’ve gotta try. Thanks!

    Reply

  2. Veggie Val February 12, 2013 at 3:01 PM #

    Kiril, I hope you will start researching or reinventing your Mama’s recipes even if they aren’t exactly the same. Get cooking, Mister! And thanks for sharing your good thoughts.

    Reply

    • Kiril Kundurazieff February 13, 2013 at 12:26 PM #

      Val, One of my 2 sisters claims our baby sister may have some of those old recipes.

      She’s the one that really took after our Mom with the love of cooking.

      Maybe it’s time I ask her to email me a few, if she does have them, especially the old Tuna Casserole one if she still has it.

      That dish and a Mincemeat pie Mom made, are the only ones I have real memories of these days.

      Like I wrote, I wish I’d written down, or otherwise saved recipes she made.

      Yesterday I tossed a bag of frozen lightly sauced cream spinich, some shredded Mozarella, and Ragu in with a box of whole grain Rotini, and survived dinner. :-D

  3. marypomerantz February 28, 2013 at 11:54 PM #

    I remember canning fresh fruits and making pickles with my Mom when I was young, too. As an adult, I’ve gone picking my own fruits and berries in orchards, gone to the farmer’s markets and even done some extensive gardening. The work is always worth the effort! Thanks for your post.

    Reply

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