Saturday, September 03, 2005

Who am I and what am I cooking?!

So I was making dinner the other night, a classic Americana three-color dinner (sans the divided dinner plate) of meatloaf, mashed potatoes, breaded/fried asparagus for us and broccoli for the kids, and it occurred to me how much of what I was making was not of my own invention. The meatloaf recipe was from mom with grandpa's favorite beef flavoring, thyme, thrown in, the potatoes were thefted from the Food Network's Alton Brown's show, "Good Eats" and the fried asparagus I learned from my sister-in-law. The unadorned, steamed broccoli was my own mundane contribution, but at least it inspired me to think!

Where are *my* recipes? What are *my* contributions to our family menu?? Then, of course, the usual cacophony of dinner dishes being jostled, kids being rounded up, spills being spilled, sighs being sighed and the day's events being recounted, often simultaneously, I lost my train of thought.

Until, that is, we went to visit the in-laws. First, we hit my other sister-in-law's house, where, after a quick non-chalant review of her refrigerator contents, I spotted leftovers of her Italian gramma's recipe for chicken cacciatore. We're talking "right off the boat" gramma from Italy, by the way, so, of course, I indulged. At my mother-in-law's house, she made turkey and all the fixings for our big impromptu family reunion, because, you know, what's an impromptu family gathering without a 17-lb. turkey, and at dessert, out came gramma's cannolis, with my mother-in-law's personal recipe adjustments made, of course. (She never got along well with gramma.)

So fifteen pounds and a few hundred miles of driving later, it hit me again, the thought, not indigestion, where are *my* recipes? What will my kids cook from *my* repertoire for their children? Once, of course, they're tall enough to reach the stove. What recipe will they call me about from their luxury homes in some visually appealing coastal town, where they have an extra, well-appointed room, with it's own private bathroom for random guests, and say, "Give it to me just like you make it, Mom, and don't forget anything!" What recipe of mine will they want to try on their bosses when they come to dinner? How much will it frustrate them that I don't measure anything and will that be, in some small measure, equal payback for all the grief they put me through in their teen years? I wonder these things.

I suppose in some way, the melange of what I make from my Filipino/Chinese mom's recipes and my Italian grandfather's classics, grandma's English heritage and hubbie's family's dishes and all the recipes I've taken as my own from the internet and food tv, could be, if you squinted really hard and maybe had a martini or two, be considered *my* contribution. My cooking is all this in any given week, sometimes at the same meal. I mean, how many people have had Filipino Pancit (rice noodles) with grilled BBQ chicken? How many families gather round the table to share in Barcelona Pork Chops (that I thieved in Barcelona at a wonderful, tiny bistro on the corner of...oh, ok, I'll save it for another story) with chinese fried rice? How many people have come to dinner at my house to witness at one party buffet, indian satay next to thai-inspired dumplings with a big tray of baked ziti steaming nearby?

Variety will be my legacy. Variety and a realllllly thick book of recipes with or without accurate measurements. Happy reading, kids.


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