Dad

Roast and Turkey.

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.

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Us eating his turkey and potatoes. That’s the table we ate at. And our place settings. I am not lying about our glamorous upbringing in the slightest.

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.

Dad in the kitchen after one of his meals. Notice how little E is. *sob*
Dad in the kitchen after one of his meals. Notice how little E is. *sob*

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?

5 thoughts on “Roast and Turkey.”

  1. Awe, that’s such a sweet story. My Mom cooked all the time when we were kids, and still does. To this day, when she comes to visit, it’s what I look forward to the most! I bet that your kids will always reminisce about your cake poppers, and probably 10 other things that you never even realized that they love.

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  2. My husband and I were just talking about this last night. My mom’s stuffing (the kind in a bag) with celery, onion and Jimmy Dean sausage cooked in the turkey was SO GOOD that there was never enough. It was simple but the yummiest I can ever remember. My mom is no cook either and the other dishes I remember (pork chops cooked in cream of mushroom soup for example) are no winners but something to laugh about now!

  3. My mom used to make this thing we called “pear salad.” Each person had their own little salad. It consisted of:
    1. a leaf of iceberg lettuce
    2. half of a canned pear placed on top of the lettuce
    3. a plop of mayo in the little scooped out part of the pear
    4. generous sprinkling of grated cheddar cheese over the whole thing

    It sounds like the most disgusting thing ever, but it was SO GOOD. I had completely forgotten about it until my sister brought it up the last time the family was all together. I’m secretly bringing it to our Christmas potluck this year and I can’t WAIT for everyone’s reaction. I’d bet money there won’t be a single pear salad left by the end of the meal!

  4. My mother didn’t like cooking much, either. She had a repertoire of about three or four meals she made — spaghetti, tiny lamb chops in the crock pot, pork loin in the crock pot, fried fish and home fries — and then we were pretty much on our own with cereal or sandwiches the rest of the time. But any time we got something out of the ordinary, even something simple like tuna fish casserole, it was like the Best Dinner Ever.

  5. My dad wasn’t much of a cooking guy either. When we spent weekends at his house, we went out to eat much more often then not. However, he would put together 2 meals that I remember just LOVING.

    1) grilled london broil with, stir fried veggies and twice baked potatoes. And always A1 sauce on the empty potato skins.

    2) cheese, apples, popcorn and noodly soup (aka instant ramen). As it turns out, his parents used to have the same thing as a special meal for the kids. And now we do the same menu on occasional movie nights at home (minus the ramen because of the mess factor)

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