Christmas Eve, after midnight Mass, as I was packing up my guitar, preparing to return home, one of my fellow choir members approached me. In her hand she carried a decoratively wrapped package... something in cellophane, tied with a Christmas ribbon. She presented it to me, informing me that this was not just any cheese ball, but her "mother's FAMOUS cheese ball." Well, of course, I thanked her for her gift and assured her I looked forward to tasting it.
On my way home from church I pondered the notion of Hilary's mother's FAMOUS cheese balls. I wondered really how famous they were. I mean, I suppose I've heard others use that expression similarly over the years, and never thought twice about it. But this night I DID think twice about it and wondered how many people had tasted those cheese balls, how many approving tasters did it take to constitute FAMOUS?
And then my mind traveled to the dishes for which my own mother is famous. The first that came to mind was my favorite dish as a youngster. Spaghetti. Now, as an adult, I have no idea how I became such a fan of spaghetti, considering my mother's recipe for the sauce was most decidedly NOT Italian. I don't know where she found the recipe I knew as spaghetti sauce, but I DO know we, my siblings and I, took over cooking when I was about 14 and we quickly changed the recipe. The basis for her spaghetti sauce was Campbell's Tomato Soup. Seriously. I'm still a huge fan of spaghetti, but in my sauce recipe, I use tomato sauce... Still, I suppose Mom's FAMOUS spaghetti sauce was just that....FAMOUS...or, at least "memorable."
Another famous recipe I associate with my mother is her meatloaf. She made meatloaf that I really liked. The ground beef, no doubt stretched with bread crumbs as far as a person could stretch such a thing, always held a couple of hard boiled eggs, hidden within the loaf. When we cut a slice of meatloaf, the slice of boiled egg in the center of the meat was always very appealing to me. I was never served meatloaf like this at any of my friends' houses. When I grew up and married, my husband went on record that boiled eggs did not belong in a meatloaf. I grew accustomed to the hard-boiled-eggless meatloaf, and, for the next 17 years, that is how I prepared it.
Another of Mom's famous recipes was referred to as "Mom's Mess." As I remember it, this recipe basically called for all leftovers in the fridge that were not growing mold, cooking them all together in a large frying pan. The flavors were always a little different, but I always liked it. My own family was not raised on such exotic fare as Mom's Mess. No, they needed to have official meals, documented in a cookbook, or at least a meal the other kids at school would recognize by name.... they just don't know what they were missing.
When I arrived home from church on Christmas Eve, I placed Hilary's mother's FAMOUS cheese ball in my fridge, to be enjoyed later.
Christmas day I traveled to my sister's and we shared a wonderful meal with her. It was lasagna, though, I would guess, not her famous lasagna. We spent the night and the next day traveled to eat brunch with Mom and my brother and his family...in a restaurant...Mom's new version of FAMOUS... we always eat at this diner when we are visiting her. She no longer cooks any of her famous meals for us. Finally, that evening we traveled to Dad's for another family get-together and meal. There we were treated to my stepmother's FAMOUS standing rib roast, Yorkshire pudding, carrots, peas and mushrooms, green beans, mashed potatoes and gravy.... and for dessert, her even MORE famous, trifle... YUMMY!!
The over-eating now behind me by at least a day, I decided to cook an old stand-by for dinner tonight. In a nostalgic mood, I decided a hearty meatloaf, with baked potato and gravy was what I wanted. Now, out of the non-hard-boiled-egg meatloaf requirement marriage for over ten years, I took great pleasure in hiding the two boiled eggs in the meat. Inspired further by my friend's mother's meatloaf recipe, one that is traditional in the Czech Republic, I added a hotdog, cut in thirds, also burying them in the ground beef. I did not have the dill pickles she also stuffs in her meatloaf, so, mine went into the oven, pregnant only with the hotdog and the boiled eggs. The meal was just what I was after.
And tonight, as my midnight snack, I think I will take a taste of that famous cheese ball that got me thinking and remembering those famous recipes of my own childhood.