I never learned to cook from my mom, and there my culinary troubles began.
I didn’t want to learn, and she didn’t want especially to teach me, I don’t think. My mother is Hungarian, and she knows all kinds of culinary magic: Chicken Paprikash, nokedli (little dumplings in broth), crepes with poppy seed filling, and túrós tészta, a pasta dish made with egg noodles, sour cream, and sugar.
The only dish I learned to make was the túrós tészta, and I will give you the recipe now, though I warn you that when my mother made this for a group of my friends once, they hated it and one kid actually threw up. I think it is absolute deliciousness, but I also don’t think it is suited to an American taste:
My Mother’s túrós tészta
1 package egg noodles
Boil water and cook noodles according to the directions.
While still piping hot, put noodles up in a bowl. Add a dollop of cottage cheese and a dollop of sour cream to the top, and sprinkle sugar over everything. My mother would serve it just like that, and the diner would mix it up themselves. The resulting concoction is creamy, sweet as a dessert, and incredibly filling and satisfying on a winter’s night. Try it at your own risk :)
American food, she did her best, but it was a challenge. So (like many folks in that generation, immigrant kids or not) we got steak and overcooked hot dogs, and chewy spaghetti with greyish canned peas. It worked, I grew up, but it was not a gourmet experience. I think my mother was much more intent on me getting somewhere in life using my brain and not my kitchen abilities…
She tried her best to feed us American style, though. Saucy Susan was a big thing at my house, a sweet orange glaze that went on all meat products. My mother also had a habit of adding canned pineapple sections to things and proclaiming them “Hawaiian.” She used to make Hawaiian beef tongue often, and it was enthusiastically received at home. So I gotta tell you, the culinary standards were not standard, and I didn’t do much to learn what my mother did know. I pretty much avoided the kitchen altogether.
Fast forward to my current life, where I am the mom and I have a house of kids to feed every night. I don’t make them Hungarian dishes…I tried goulash once, and it didn’t go over very well.
But what I do try to go for is that warm satisfied feeling I used to get from my mom’s noodles, or my grandma’s perfect palacsinta stuffed with poppy seeds or chestnut puree. That happy, homey feeling. My goal with this cooking stuff is to see if I can conjure that feeling on a regular basis.
Maybe not every night…maybe pizza delivery plays a bigger role in my kitchen repertoire than I want to admit LOL. And during deadlines, my menu often devolves to Deadline Chicken, pizza and eggs (see last week’s post).
But coming together to eat something made special for you, even if that something is little baby hotdogs wrapped in flaky pastry blankets, makes a person feel safe, creates a loving circle of family. Dang that is corny. But it is all so true. And sometimes it’s like the little girl I was is sitting at the table with us, as we eat little hotdogs and talk about soccer teams and trumpet practice.
And that is kind of magical right there.