That was a question I was asked from the day I could eat solid food. We had a separate, full-size freezer in a back room stocked with Swanson and Banquet frozen dinners. We were well-versed in every variety, but one of our favorites was Swanson's meat loaf.
My mother had many talents, but cooking was not among them. She was gifted at overcooking, however. In the morning, I’d hear my dad scraping the char off his toast like he was playing the washboard. With all that practice, he could’ve joined a bluegrass band.
The red meat and sugar queen, mom cooked with packets of Lipton’s onion soup mix, cans of Veg-All and boxes of Schilling’s Taco Casserole. One of her better dishes was a pork chop and potato casserole in white sauce. The white sauce was from a can. The potatoes were from another can. I don’t remember if the pork chops were from a can. You’d have to ask my shrink. I may have blocked that out.
Mom liked to tell the story of the time when I was about 10 and refused to eat the burnt hamburger patty, served bunless, she had made. I said, “This tastes like goat droppings!” So she put some chocolate sauce on it to get me to eat it. When I took a bite and refused it again, she ate it. I craved normal.
The maestro with a needle and thread, she orchestrated each stitch into a glorious string arrangement. Seams and colors were meticulously matched. Buttons were chosen for a breakout solo performance or softer, quiet accompaniment. Zippers, threads and rickrack played along in pitch-perfect, three-part harmony. Every detail was a weighty aesthetic decision to be agonized and labored over. Back then it was called artistry and craftsmanship. Today there are meds for that. Yep, the OCD doesn¹t fall far from the tree.
Cream Cheese Brownies (for Mother’s Day)