My Dad was NOT a cook by any means. He actually often discussed his confusion over why people would “slave away” in the kitchen for hours, just to create a meal that is eaten in 15 minutes. He once sat in the kitchen while I was cooking something and said, “So, where do you think this came from? You’re desire to cook meals like this? Because I know it didn’t come from me.”
He had a few staples. Frozen eggrolls. (Which I hated.) Frozen fishsticks. (Which I loved.) Cans of Dinty Moore Beef Stew. (Loved.) And Oatmeal. (Loved.) For the most part mealtime was just an “On your own” type of experience as I got older. There was always stuff for sandwiches. Always cereal. I don’t know…maybe there was more, but I absolutely only have memories of those options on an average day on an average week.
BUT! For some reason, he liked to roast a turkey and cook a pot roast at least once a year. And y’all? There is no one in the world who put less effort into both meals than my Dad, but because it was SO RARE and it felt like such a HUGE EFFORT compared to his other meals, I would always get REALLY excited. Those meals usually revolved around a holiday, and it just depended on how the holiday fell for us from year to year. Were we spending Thanksgiving with extended family? Doing Christmas Dinner with Mom? If so – then the Turkey or the Roast might actually be 2 days after Christmas. Or the Monday following Thanksgiving. Either way – at least once a year we had at least one of those things.
The turkey: He roasted in the oven with packaged stuffing in the cavity and carrots/celery smooshed in and around it. BAM. That was it. No spices. No brining. Maybe a little bit of painting with butter but it was all packaged stuffing, carrots, and celery. To me, that’s the right way to cook a turkey! AND I LOVED IT. I still – to this day – think it’s the best turkey in the world. I tried to do exactly what he did one year but mine sucked. I think a lot of the “OMG THIS IS DELICIOUS!” memories I have relate more to the emotions than the actual taste. It may have been dry as hell (he did always try to make gravy but it was often a failure) but there was always boxed Mashed Potatoes to go with it and OH MY GOD…I LOVED BOXED MASHED POTATOES.
Basically – the point is – set the standards low for your children.
His roast was about the same. He had an ancient slow cooker – probably one of the first made – and he was still using it even up until he died. He put the meat, some potatoes and some carrots, and kept enough water in it to keep from drying, and BAM! Pot Roast! AND IT WAS SO GOOD. I remember telling him once, “This is way better than Dinty Moore Beef Stew” and he said, “Yeah, but that’s much easier.”
Which is hysterical because his pot roast was SO EASY.
My kids probably won’t have any specific meals stick out for them because we do cook a lot in this house. And I do a wide range of meals. And maybe this is good for their diets, but I’m sad that there won’t be any ONE thing that sticks out in the memories like it does mine. I’m just so grateful for those memories and those meals and I appreciate that Dad took at least 1 or 2 days a year to cook a meal that required SO MUCH EFFORT.
(Those of you in charge of Thanksgiving this year are probably thinking, “Man…if only I could put that little effort into MY turkey/dressing/stuffing.)
I think I mentioned once to Dad about my fond memories of those meals and I think he was entertained by it because – even he realized how minimal they were on the grand scale of things. At least I hope I mentioned it.
Do you have any specific memories of great meals your parents cooked?