In Anthony Bourdain’s breakout opus, Kitchen Confidential, he tells a story about working in a fancy-schmancy hotel restaurant in NYC. One day, these mafia guys swagger in, and one finds a cook, slips him some cash, and tells him to make some gnocchi “just like mom used to make”. The cook then spends the next hour or two trying not to poop his pants as he drops potato dumplings into boiling water in utter, abject terror, trying to make them just like mom used to make.
This is, as far as I know, one of the only recorded instances of “mom’s recipe” and “just like mom used to make” being used for evil.
Mother’s day was, you may have noticed, a few days ago. I’ve already done a post about cooking for your lady (which you should always do, holiday or not. Or buy her food. Just make sure food’s in the equation). But so I didn’t want to rebloggarize so soon, instead the phrase “like mom used to make” popped into my head like a well done toaster pastry.
Think about it, though: does any other phrase conjure up comfort and safety like that? It makes sense: food itself can make you feel all warm & fuzzy (Pillsbury practically makes that their business model). And nothing is synonymous with an ease to the pain of life (emotional and otherwise) like a mother’s attention.
There’s a saying in the UK that the best cup of tea is the one mother makes. And certain “legitimate businessmen” have a fond regard for gnocchi della mama, but for me it’s more of an abstract idea than a specific dish. This is probably due to the fact that my dad did most of the cooking at home.
“Like dad used to make” isn’t a thing, is it? We’re kinda known for fixing things, and carrying the bags, but not comfort, per se.
Part of me wants to break this wide open. The liberal arts-educated, paradigm-deconstructing, baby-wearing, pink-shirt-owning papa progressive wants to challenge the gender assumptions and create a cultural model in which a primal, nearly subconscious emotional refuge is sparked by the smell of pie baked by a gender-non-specific parent. This part of me might hold a candle-light vigil to this effect.
The rest of me just wants sleep and a donut. Not necessarily in that order.
Honestly, a papa can’t claim oppression in this arena. So all my marches would just come off as crappy parades without the fun floats. We would have a band though – I play the trombone.
I’m going to do us all a favor and stop thinking about this. Happy Mother’s day, all. I don’t go for all the Hallmark Hullabaloo, but a better reason for a holiday I could never imagine. Without our moms, literally none of us would be where we are today. Go find a mom and give her an ice cream cone and a strong tropical drink. She’ll appreciate the gesture if nothing else.