My mom was not a good cook. She wasn’t confident about her skills, and she didn’t like to cook. For her, making dinner was a burden. She gave us food poisoning more than once (we’re still not allowed to joke about the deadly pierogi). But, she did the best she could, given her attitude and her worries about the family budget. Money was tight–my dad worked in a paint factory and later as a school janitor.
From my mom, I learned to worry about cooking too. I was sure I was terrible at it. It stresses me out in a way that other challenges do not.
This weekend we had terrible weather–rain, high winds, snow. My boyfriend was coming over on Saturday night. I said I’d make dinner and we’d watch a DVD–the weather was too awful to go out.
An old favorite recipe
To make dinner for someone is a big deal for me. So I turned to an old favorite of my mom’s: tuna noodle casserole. It’s cheap and easy–a can of mushroom soup, a can of tuna, a handful of frozen (or canned) peas, a package of macaroni, some crunched-up potato chips for the topping. I happened to have some minced onion and sliced mushrooms from a previous meal, so I sauteed them in olive oil first and then added the soup, tuna, and peas to it before I dumped “the sauce” into a casserole dish with the cooked pasta. Then I sprinkled some grated cheddar and the broken-up potato chips on top and baked it.
Boyfriend Ron was wet, tired and cold when he arrived. He’s a skinny guy–not a big eater. But he had three helpings of the casserole and said that it reminded him of the comfort food his mom made years ago. He even asked if he could take leftovers home! It was a great success for me, the anxious cook. And I was so surprised that such a humble meal was such a big hit.
So I ask–what do you worry about when you cook? Do you have a humble, yet successful meal you can share with us?
Kate Sprutta Elliott is former editor of Gather magazine. This blog first ran in 2010. Boyfriend Ron is still around.