This guest post was written by Vicki Bell. Vicki is Founder and Editor of The Little Paper; a monthly newspaper with a weekly newsletter and a website that provides parents with the most comprehensive, creative and useful listings for programs, classes, activities, events and resources in the city. Vicki’s post is part of the part of the Apron Strings series, helping shine a light on our foremother’s food traditions. Visit the Apron Strings page to see other posts and the videos.
I’ve always suspected that my mom doesn’t like cooking very much – this despite the fact that she’s actually a really good cook – but I thought I should check in with her before I went ahead and made it public. “Oh God, Vicki” she said, “I hate cooking.”
This shouldn’t really surprise me. My first kitchen memories aren’t, as I believed for many years, of baking cookies with my great grandmother Gammy but with Mary Mills, her silver-haired Scottish housekeeper. My grandmother had a cook as well and would only occasionally waft into the kitchen on a cloud of Arpége to look for a vase or a cocktail or a child. It wasn’t much of a hothouse for orchids of the Cordon Bleu persuasion. But then the story turned sharply to the left and my mom made what her mother would have called “an unfortunate marriage.” Imagine the poor thing, 18 years old, madly in love and utterly adrift in a tiny, (unstaffed) kitchen with only the Joy of Cooking to keep her impending family afloat.
I remember that book as a flour-dusted, penciled-in, broken-spined kitchen bible. From it emerged chicken baked with Lawry’s seasoning salt and butter, French salad dressing made with Crisco and Ketchup and Harvard-styled tinned beets, smothered in vinegar and sugar. What’s more important than mom’s cooking though, is the kitchen itself. It was the centre of the world. Everything of any importance happened there. Everyday after school I found my mom in the kitchen and while she cooked, I ate and talked.
Over time, my mom became more confident and more ambitious. While I laid out the entire plot of a movie (Silver Streak comes immediately to mind), she attached a grinder to the kitchen counter and minced steak and onions for shepherd’s pie. As I agonized over the more popular girls in grade seven, she made lamb curry with little dishes of raisins and coconut. While I got dumped, fell in love, opened my university letters and planned my first apartment, she made scratch crusts for blueberry pie – and apple, pumpkin and most importantly, rhubarb pie.
The phrase ”Come into the kitchen for a minute” still strikes me as a spine-tingling prelude to big news or big secrets.
Not surprising then that I love to cook and that I love sharing the kitchen with my own girls. We make wonderful food and great memories together but alas, kind of a lousy pie.
Maybe you can do better…
Pastry (enough for 1 1/2 — 9 inch pies)
This recipe works for me but I have given the recipe to others who say that I have missed out an ingredient. Good luck !
- 1 cup shortening (Tenderflake) cut up into small pieces and softened
- 1/2 cup boiling water and blend
- 2 cups of flour(pastry or sifted)
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Blend all together with pastry tool or knife cutting through the mixture not stirring. If too greasy add a little more flour.
- Form into a ball and place on a floured piece of tin foil and wrap up and chill before rolling. Best done the day before.
Rhubarb Pie (1 –9 inch pie)
- 2 cups fresh rhubarb cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- Sprinkle 2 to 3 tblsp flour over rhubarb and toss pieces in flour.
- Mix together in separate bowl:
- 2 tblsp butter softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 egg beaten
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- Add rhubarb to the above mixture and coat well. Place in an unbaked pie shell and cover with a pastry top.
- Prick the pastry top with a fork and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 45 minutes. Enjoy !