was a seasonal cook. When she was growing up there was no refrigeration,
so she was accustomed to cooking with the season. In summer she would
put up preserves, even make her own catsup!
In winter we had hearty food. Sunday was for big pieces of meat, such
as leg of lamb, which is traditional in English and Irish families. On
Monday, the leftovers were made into meat pies or a cottage
pie. Mom made a great pie
crust, both for sweet pies and savory pies. She used lard which
went out of fashion long ago. I switched to shortening which makes a flaky
crust. That's the one my children use, as well.
at the beach was paradise. She would save pennies all year so her five
children could go to the shore for the whole summer. She called our
summers away a cheap doctor bill. In those days the rivers were clean
so we'd go crabbing on the Manasquan River. We'd get blue shedders which
are blue claw crabs. Sometimes we ate the crabs plain, but when we got
a lot, she would make crab cakes. They were the best crab cakes because
she put in big chunks. That is the secret to good crab
cakes. I would help her mix the ingredients, but she never
let anyone mix in the crab meat. She did that herself, so our eager
children's hands wouldn't shred the crab. Her fingers would arch, as
delicate as spider legs. When the ocean
was at low tide, we'd gather clams straight from the sand bar. Mom would
get excited and rush to the store. She'd buy 15 cents worth of soup
greens tied in a string, and a small piece of salt pork to make clam
chowder. She made New
England style because it had milk and cream for those growing bones.
I have adapted the recipe, though, to make it more artery friendly.
When the fishing
boat came in, the fishermen would blow the horn and the women would
run to get fresh fish. We had a lot of flounder, blue fish, and striped
bass in the summer. Mom made it special by baking it with
mint from her garden. My mother made a
molasses cake that was
outstanding. I have tried to reproduce it, but can't. She used lard,
and I don't think it was homogenized in those days. And her ingredients
were measured in coffee cups. I have tried to reproduce this, but haven't
succeeded. Nothing tastes the same or as good as my mother's.
MARY: In a family of good cooks, Mary is the star baker.
She shared her secrets with her three daughters, but all three vow that
no one bakes like Mary.
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