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Mom’s Meals

May 9, 2010

There are a lot of moms in my life.

There are the moms that I have dinner with monthly. I use the word “Mom” when referring to Mrs. Fussy these days, which still feels a bit creepy.  There are my grandmothers, who are miraculously still alive and kicking.  I also have a stepmother and a mother-in-law.  Plus there are countless other moms who I have adopted over the years.

I am very well mothered.

None of which makes my own mother any less special to me.  I love her and I value the close relationship we share.  And even though we do not always agree, we are always able to talk things out, openly and honestly.

Throughout the years, there have always been certain dishes that mom would cook and we would have time and time again.  I do not have the recipes, but I can share with you the dishes, and my memories of them through the decades, in my Mother’s Day tribute to my mom.

1970s – Ronnie’s Chicken

In Brooklyn Heights, my mom had a friend Ronnie.  And Ronnie had a recipe for Orange Chicken.  Straight out of the 1970s, the dish called for a can of frozen orange juice concentrate and soy sauce.  It was sweet, and tart, and salty, and oh so orangey.  I’m a little bit terrified of it, but at the same time, I’d love to try it again as an adult.  You know, in the interest of science.

1980s – Crunchy Chicken

By this time we had moved to Miami.  And this was a dish we had all the time.  It was super-easy to make, and my sister and I could help in the preparation.  Chicken breasts were dipped in melted butter, and then dredged in a mixture of crushed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Kraft Parmesan cheese.  They were then laid out on a baking sheet and cooked in the oven.  The best part were the golden bits of crunch topping that fell off on the tray and got extra golden brown.

1990s – Flank Steak

My mom’s flank steak recipe was also a staple of her repertoire in the 80s.  But when I came home from college and she asked what I wanted her to make, the answer was always flank steak.  Mom would score the steaks with a sharp knife and marinate them in a sweet and salty combination of soy sauce, brown sugar, olive oil, garlic and ginger.  The steaks were then quickly broiled in the oven to a lovely deep pink medium rare.  As the meat rested, the pan drippings and marinade were boiled down into a sauce which was spooned over orzo.  Raf called this dish meat candy.  And it tasted just as good or maybe even a little bit better on sandwiches the next day.

2000s – Crunchy Chicken Revisited

A lot happened in this decade.  I got married, had a son, moved back to the East Coast, and had a daughter.  When the kids were born, my mom was a tremendous help, especially in making sure that the family was well fed.  And while she kept us well stocked in meatballs and veal with peas from a glorious place in Providence, she also did a good bit of home cooking.  Mom made a significant quantity of her new crunchy chicken, which has evolved with the times.  Now the meat is dipped in olive oil.  And the crunchy topping is a combination of ground walnuts, whole grain breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese and thyme.  It’s a significant improvement from the chicken of my childhood.  Plus now when I taste it, I’m immediately brought back to the days immediately after the birth of Young Master Fussy.

Parents and food are a funny combination.  There were lots of things that mom has made over the years, but these are the things that really stuck out and made an indelible mark in my memory.

If you have kids, and don’t do a lot of cooking, it’s not too late to start.  You can see by looking at these dishes that they aren’t terribly fancy.  They don’t take a lot of time, or require a ton of exotic ingredients.

I am very thankful to my mom for giving me a good childhood where I felt safe and secure and loved.  A childhood that was filled with delicious food, excursions to museums, trips the playground, and ice cream from the Good Humor truck.

And I am very thankful to my mom for all of her support in my adult life.  The path I am on right now is far from traditional.  Sometimes she worries about me, which is part of any good Jewish mother’s job.  But right now things are going great, thanks in no small part to all the other moms in my life (of which Mrs. Fussy is at the front of the line).

To my one true mom, and all the other moms who touch my life in this northeastern outpost, happy Mother’s Day.

And for those of you who are wondering, Mrs. Fussy is getting my famous two-egg cheese omelet today.  She had too many donuts from The Cookie Factory yesterday to have anything as sweet as French toast this morning.


3 Comments leave one →
  1. Jean Patiky permalink
    May 9, 2010 1:00 pm

    This is the best Mother’s Day I ever had. I love my number one son more than ever…thank you for your loving tribute. I must come clean. Orange Chicken and Flank Steak recipes must be attributed to Nana Soosha!! Nana Soosha made tons of Orange Chicken for New Year’s Eve Parties and put in huge chafing dishes for a buffet dinner !! She is also responsible for introducing me to PANETONE and champagne tradition. Through my tears with love forever, Your Mama

  2. May 9, 2010 6:37 pm

    Awww, the fussy man’s mom. I’m all verklempt.

    And I’m willing to bet all of those dishes, while not the healthiest, are damn tasty.

  3. Kerosena permalink
    May 10, 2010 11:00 am

    My step-grandmother made that orange chicken! That part of the family lived in Great Neck before moving to FL along with all of the recipes 30 years ago.

    There was also a brisket recipe that called for Heinz 57 sauce and beer. You cook it forever in the sauce, let it cool, slice it, put the slices back in the sauce, cover VERY tightly with 2 layers of aluminum foil, refrigerate for at least 24 hours. [At this point, if you prepared the brisket in Florida, you package it up and carry it on the plane to NY] Then of course you put it in a low oven to take the chill off.

    Why was everything from that era so terribly sweet? All that OJ and brown sugar and ketchuppy condiments. Too much for my taste.

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