But you will never find me using this theme. My family comes from England, Scotland, Germany, Scandinavia--pretty much anywhere in the world known for bad food. My grandmother cooked wonderful dessert--pralines and meringue cookies--but that was about it. My mom can make a mean chocolate chip cookie. Don’t push her any farther. She makes lasagna with cottage cheese instead of ricotta and I’m actually not sure she knows the difference. Cooking is just not something that interests her. She would rather read. In this tradition, as a wedding present she gave me my very own copy of The I Hate to Cook Book, which she has been using since she got married herself.
However, I married into a family with a rich ethnic food culture. My husband has already started fasting in anticipation of Easter dinner, because his mother is making Thai food. That’s right--while you are eating ham and turkey on holidays, I am feasting on sticky rice, lop gai, sum thum, lop neer, egg rolls with peanut sauce, and pad Thai. Occasionally she also throws a curve ball like pankadow,* Chinese bitters,* or one of the previously mentioned dishes with tripe substituted for the meat.†
Bless her heart, over the years she has made an effort to teach me to cook for her child. She has brought me a rice steamer basket that looks like a hat, a double boiler that looks like a spittoon, a papaya dicer that looks like a weapon, a mortar and pestle, and four bottles of fish sauce. But she has been making these dishes since she was a little girl, picking a papaya for sum thum off the tree in her front yard on her way in from school every afternoon. She’s one of those cooks who knows her stuff so well, it’s hard for her to explain it to someone else. Especially someone who grew up thinking lasagna was supposed to be made with cottage cheese. However, my husband and I have made a pact. This is the year we will learn to cook Thai food, and we will be paying special attention this Easter.
How about you? Can you cook? What special dishes have been passed down through your family? Are they really good, or do you just think they’re good because you’re used to them? And do you ever write about them?