45. Hot Stuff

I’m not bragging when I say that I’m rather famous for my cooking.

As soon as the smoke starts pouring out of the house, you can hear the neighbors groaning, “Mrs. Ford is cooking again.”

As a cook who uses the smoke alarm for a timer, I have had a long and torturous career burning food — on the range, in the oven and even in the microwave.  Actually, I have often burnt water as well.  I once was boiling water in an All-Clad aluminum pot and left it on so long the bottom melted and fused itself to the top of the range.

I owe my pyrotechnical cooking skills to my mother, Josie Gorman. When it came to burning the navy beans every Friday, Mother was a whiz.  I also remember many charred corn meal muffins and scorched pots of oatmeal, all masterfully achieved while wrangling five kids and operating an in-home professional beauty shop.

Mother was a typical Norwegian cook.  When we were little, I remember that everything on the plate was usually white, light yellow, or gray.  I think the only reason Norwegians use lingonberries (besides their national sweet tooth) is because they finally observed that maybe the cuisine needs a little color.

We were spared the awful lutefisk or pickled herring.  I suspect our Bohemian-Irish father may have had something to do with that.  Actually, his influence on my mother’s cooking was very constructive.  By the time we were teenagers, Mother discovered seasonings and could whip up a terrific pot of chili.  It’s the only dish I can remember her cooking that was red. She also made a wonderful dish with potatoes and what she called “Sour Sausage Gravy.”  As horrific as it sounds, – and even though it was the customary white and gray in color, – it was delicious.

I can remember one and maybe two New Year’s Eves when we were little, that she dragged all five of us kids out of bed and downstairs right at midnight.  Waiting for each of us on the table was a bowl of brownish-gray lentils.  “You need to eat these”,  Mother said, “so we can have prosperity in the New Year.” No such wealth was ever bestowed on our household and so, eventually, much to our relief, she reluctantly gave up the tradition.

But back to my own career as a chef.  When it comes to my mother’s and my cooking, you could say that the lingonberry doesn’t fall far from the tree.  My idea of putting out a really big feast is to include Jello.  Don’t scoff.  Jello takes organization and planning.  You can’t just throw together a bowl of Jello at the last minute.  It’s worth it though.  It really adds some class to the Top Ramen.  And it’s very colorful. Especially when mixed with canned fruit cocktail.

The only member of the family who ever appreciated my own unique skill at “overcooking” food was my granddaughter Gwendolyn.  This was during her Gothic phase.  Gwenie, all dolled up in her black clothing, black dyed hair, black makeup and black nail polish, always seemed to enjoy coming to Grandma’s house where she knew she might be treated to entrees like Blackened Meatloaf with Burnt Toast Triangles.

It would be nice to be famous for something besides burnt food, but then again, I think about it this way. Nobody who eats here will ever have to worry about getting trichinosis. That certainly counts for something.  And don’t forget about my Jello creations – never once overcooked. Let’s hear it for Octo-woman!

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9 Responses to 45. Hot Stuff

  1. Denise Fortune says:

    My earliest memory of Grandma Jo was her standing in their apartment kitchen with a jar of peanut butter in her one hand, and a huge spoonful of butter in the other, while doing her best to mix the two together right into the jar. Best PB sandwich EVAH!!

  2. Joan Fitzpatrick says:

    Such exaggeration !!! Tsk-Tsk

    Actually she was a very good cook. She had a beauty shop in the house, and when she was working in the shop, she forgot about what was cooking on the stove. I wish that could be my excuse. She had too many “irons in the fire”

  3. Denise Fortune says:

    Oh–and it was the Parkside Apt.(??) in the Marion-ish area of town. Cute apartment.

    On a side note—I’ve counted 3 genetic inheritances I’ve received from you.
    *continuous vomiting during pregnancy
    *cooking skills
    *sense of direction, or lack thereof

    Ain’t DNA great? 😀

  4. susy says:

    mom you really make the best meatloaf I have ever tasted and delicious watergate cake and yummy potato salad and your egg salad sandwiches on killer bread are to die for but what I cannot figure out is why you always prepare enough food for an army!

  5. Joy Opsvig says:

    My mom LOVES burnt toast! And now April will only eat burnt toast! I wonder where they got this liking from 🙂

  6. Josie says:

    my favorite thing you make is watergate cake. i think it is one of the best creations ever right next to the camera and clothing.

  7. Chris says:

    This has to be a warped sense of personal reality! I only remember fabulous spreads of amazing tastes whenever we’ve been in the Ford dining hall!

    Do I remember a story of Grandma frying up a fabulous kitchen smell that earned 5 stars from the taste testers and then was revealed to be the dog’s dinner??

  8. Linda Lewis says:

    I’m still waiting for you to write down the recipe for your salad dressing. And I love to see the turkey roaster pan full of your yummy home made croutons. Delicious!

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