No… Mom Can’t Cook Like She Used To

Fuck no … she can’t.

I always hear grown men talking about how great it is to go home and have a home cooked meal by mommy dearest. Usually they’re single (or soon to be…); almost every one of them has a steady diet of Subway foot longs and Miller High Lifes. When I was casually dating eons ago, I went with for a few of them, and they were always short of what they were billed to be. Usually bland. Always fatty. Maybe I’m just a food snob, but I always remembered thinking that another date to Subway would have been better.

And then flash forward to serious relationships, I can’t tell you how many family dinners I’ve had to sit through, sneaking to the bathroom to down Pepto Bismol whilst I tried to stomach the cheesy, fatty, Italian-style cooking (because they all thought they were Italian), sitting in the Italian-style adorned home (because that’s the biggest trend now it seems), listening to people tell stories about their trips to Italy (“you haven’t been … oh you must!“)… and at some point everyone inevitably raised their glasses (of Chianti, of course) to toast the cook and Mom would stand up while everyone cheered (I, of course, always too loaded up with Pepto and booze to be able to even lift my glass, let alone taste the food anymore…). But I always wondered what these people thought was so great about the meal. It was always loaded with fat, drowned in so much cheese I thought they would be serving cholesterol medication mixed with Ex-lax for dessert, and in the end it typically tasted like every other “mom’s meal.”

It isn’t just that I don’t like Italian food, though, faithful blog followers (which is probably, now that I think of it, a direct result of all these wanna-be Italians) – I’ve truly come to the conclusion that “Mom” really can’t cook like she used to anymore.

I present to you Exhibit A:

Yesterday was my husband’s birthday, which meant that we needed to bake a cake. My mom came over pretty early on in the day and wanted to help, so I figured – why not! I thought she could bake the cake and then I would make the dinner. An hour into what would later be called “the debacle,” we were all fanning smoke out of the apartment while the fire alarms went off – I shit you not, faithful blog followers, my mother set the first cake on fire.

She then moved on to cake number two, pictured above – that is, its remnants in the trash. You’ll notice she tried to turn this cake into “funfetti” cake (which the flaming one from the first attempt was supposed to be), by adding sprinkles into yellow cake mix. I’m sure you can imagine it didn’t work too well, in addition to the fact that the cake came out about as hard as a rock. Possibly harder. We all nicely had a piece, thanked her for baking it, and promptly threw it away today when it had upgraded from “hard as a rock” to “capable of breaking through a thin wall if thrown.”

Mom really can’t cook like she used to.

My mother used to be able to cook all kinds of great meals, but over the years I’ve seen her ability to do so rapidly decline. Now it’s as if she only knows how to cook a basic chicken and rice casserole, which also tastes like complete shit unless you add an entire salt shaker to your plateful.

But then as I thought about it a little more today, I started to wonder if any of them really could cook in the first place? Or possibly, it’s the bias that mommy can always cook a meal that warms your tum-tum, as well as your heart making people believe the food is actually edible? And what if as you age, your ability to cook sags like your boobs until there is nothing decent or appealing about it (them)? Will I one day be as awful of a cook as them? Or are people just shining me on like they do in Little Italy, clapping and toasting and drinking more Chianti to send the highest compliments to the chef?

I will never forget going to my Grandmother’s home (my dad’s mom) in the years right before her death. My dad would sit and eat her meal, smile, tell her how great it was, and promise we would be back the following Sunday for another helping of Grandma’s home cooking. Usually it was Spam, or some other similarly atrocious dish. Typically on the way home, a “fuck no, I’m not going back for more” would come wailing it’s way out of my mouth, and then I’d be grounded (I was only 15) and we’d be back the next week, choking down another Spam delight and telling Grandma how great it was. Clearly my dad had a bias, or maybe he was just being nice. But today – years later – he claims to still have loved the meals she cooked. Loved.

What do you think, faithful blog followers?  Am I just a food snob? Possibly my picky and still somewhat varied tastes have made me turn my nose up at one of ma’s good ol’ fashioned buckets of whatever slop is being served? In any event, I can think of maybe five women – the mothers of friends, and my aunt – that can probably still cook. The rest, I’ll take Subway.