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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Cookery Lessons anyone?



My five married daughters are all very accomplished cooks. But it wasn’t always like that .

Most of them, within a week of their wedding, were on the phone.

“Mum, what do you do once you’ve taken the plastic wrap off the hicken?”

“Mum, How do I cook hot-dogs”.

“Mum, how long do I cook hard boiled eggs for?”

An over-a-cup-of-coffee survey ( the most reliable sort of survey in my opinion), revealed that my daughters spent way below the national average pre-nuptial time in the kitchen. In fact you might say that they spent practically no time in the kitchen. Despite all my well worn, but true, clichés about the way to a man’s heart being through his stomach and pointed questions such as “ Would you recognize a chicken in the supermarket freezer cabinet?”, none of my subtle remarks drew them any closer to the cooker or even the kitchen counter-tops.


Like any good Jewish mother I went through a guilt-phase. Obviously I was a terrible cook and they didn’t want to learn anything from me. Maybe their husbands-to- be hate my food.

But it was pretty easy to discount these thoughts as the facts-on-the-ground showed otherwise. In fact their boyfriends spent more time in the kitchen sampling the contents of the pots and pans, than they ever did. So much so that I was sorely tempted to offer the guys the odd cookery lesson or two, knowing just what they were in for once they married one of my daughters.

“ When the time comes that I need to learn how to cook, I’ll find out” was my eldest daughter’s comment. How much closer to the-time-that-she-needs-to-know how-to-cook can you be, than the month before the wedding. But of course then her reply was, “Mum I don’t have time now I have a million things to do before the wedding I haven’t got time for cookery lessons”.

When my next daughter fixed her wedding date, I subtly reminded her of her older sister’s lack of knowledge and experience in the haute-cuisine area of life.

“Why don’t you try some hands-on experience now while you’re still at home. Peel a potato, boil an egg, roast some meat. It can’t harm you know.”                                                                                   All I got was a rolling of the eyes and one of her you-don’t-give-up-do-you looks.

It’s not that they never, ever,  did anything in the kitchen. Each one of them had “their” recipe. One made a lasagna to die for, another made divine brownies, another made delicious chocolate-chip cookies and one actually loved making  salads.


But even if they were to swap recipes between them to expand their repertoire, their husbands would soon get a bit bored with the menus .

I often found myself apologizing to their future in-laws. I didn’t want them to get too much of a shock when they visited the newly-weds for the first time and were perhaps expecting to be served a normal meal

If it bothered them to see their precious sons being served noodles and ketchup for a main meal, and that only after their wives had stared long and hard at the instructions on the back of the pack, they never mentioned it.


It’s not that I never read those parenting magazines that suggest that the school vacation is an excellent time to instill some domestic talents into your children. We went through a phase of letting them have one day a week when each teenager was responsible for the day’s menus. That worked for about two days after which my husband and I decided that there were better ways of dieting than simply being starved to death by our children.

Of course there are some advantages to the situation. They came home for visits more often – in fact during the early months of married life, whenever they were really hungry which was pretty often.

And now as the years have gone by, they have picked up some delicious recipes.

In fact just last week I was thinking of what to make when we had visitors and found myself calling my eldest daughter’s house. “ How did you do those potatoes in that yummy sauce, everyone loved them? ”

She reeled off the recipe and just as I was about to put the phone down she murmured, “ Er Mum, how long do I cook hard-boiled eggs?”


Rosalind Adam said...

I don't know about you, Ann, but I was exactly like that when I first got married. I can remember phoning Mum in tears many a time. I'm glad to hear that they're all accomplished cooks now.

My biggest regret was never asking my Great Aunt for her recipes. She was an excellent cook and made all the traditional Jewish food in a way that I've never tasted since. She didn't weigh or follow recipes. She, for sure, had learnt from her Mother all those years ago in Latvia. What a shame it's too late for me to learn from her.

Reb Mordechai said...

When my two brothers and I were growing up, my parents worked in the shop from morning until evening. We were left alone for a lot of the time to cook for ourselves as well as prepare food for our parents for when they came home.

Our mother taught us simple delicious Ashkenazi cooking. "Basically", she would say, "everything begins with onions, eggs and matza meal.

Some example:

Kneidelach soup: Chicken necks, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal, Carrots. Boiled
Meat balls: Chicken or Beef, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal. Roasted or fried
Fish balls: Minced Fish or Tuna, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal. Fried
Gefilta Fish: Minced Fish, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal, Carrots. Boiled
Fried Fish: Fish pieces, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal. Fried
Kuegal: Lochshan or Potatoes, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal, Carrots (optional). Boiled and Roasted
Stuffing: Apples, Nuts, Wine, Onions, Eggs, Matza Meal. Roasted.
Cheese Cake: Cheese, (only joking).