Although I wasn’t fortunate enough to be raised near any of my relatives until I was age 12 to 14, I did have a chance to spend those two years being amazed at the culinary skills of some of them. While we were in Missouri we attended 3 family reunions and a multitude of celebrations. And of course, the occasional dinner invitation.
My maternal Aunt Mae could cook anything and make it so delicious you wanted seconds or thirds. I remember once my cousin took my sister and me fishing in a pond down the road from their farm. We had never fished before and we were so excited about the small fish that we caught. Just before we left I had a very hard tug on my line and I started trying to reel it in. It was too much for me so my cousin helped me pull it in. The surprise was it was not a fish but a large turtle. She proceeded to pull it far from the water then she hit it in the head with a rock. She told us we should take it back with us to show it to my Dad. When we sat down for dinner my Aunt had cooked the fish and it was the best I ever had, Then she pulled out some fried chicken strips. I had never tasted anything like it. You can imagine my surprise when Aunt Mae told me that it was really the turtle we caught.
My paternal Aunt Margaret never used a measuring spoon or cup. She would pull all the needed ingredients together and just put in a pinch of this and a dash of that and a handful of something else. When she was done, it would literally melt in your mouth. She used this method with everything, including the wonderful cakes, pies and other desserts that she was famous for. I once asked her for a recipe, and she looked puzzled. I was told that she would try to figure out measurements for me, but she couldn’t guarantee that what I made would taste like hers. She told me her mother never measured anything either and it took her years of trial and error. To be honest, the recipe that I attempted to make was an epic fail.
After being surprised with how exceptional cooking skills seemed to flourish in my family, I wondered how my mother seemed to have been overlooked when it came to receiving her portion. I will confess, there were three things my mother could cook that actually was palatable. They were chicken and dumplings, angel food cake (from a box mix), and Missouri cookies. All three were a once a year treat. I was actually hoping that as the years went by she could add to the foods she could make. It never happened. My 3 children would beg me to make food to take with them when they spent the night at “Granny’s”. The last time I ate at her house I got a glimpse of what she did! She usually had the food ready by the time we got there, but for some unknown reason she was still cooking. I watched as she kept adding more and more salt and pepper into the pot. The meal was almost inedible.
A few days later I was talking with a friend who was a nurse and I told her about this incident. She then asked me if my mother was a smoker. I told her that she had smoked her whole life and that I would have to go buy her cigarettes out on the Indian Reservation. I tinformed her that she would buy 8 cartons a month. My friend said, “your mother has probably destroyed her taste buds so she just keeps seasoning the food until she is able to taste something”. Then I realized that maybe she may have at one time been a good cook, but by the time I could remember what her meals tasted like she may have already lost her sense of taste.
I am a professional genealogist, writer, photographer, wife, mother, and grandma. I have written two books “Your Family History: Doing It Right the First Time” and “Planning Your Genealogy Research Trip”, both available on Amazon. You can also connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @VHughesAuthor.