Everything I Learned About Cooking I Learned from My Mama (Even Though She Doesn’t Let Me Near Her Kitchen)

I need this cup.

I come from a long line of control freaks.

In fact, the need to be in control at all times has been handed down through the generations to my mother, and to my sisters and me, like bad costume jewelry. This is no secret, especially to our husbands, our children, our coworkers (Shut up, CCG.)

We don’t just like to be in control, we pretty much demand it without saying it out loud. We kinda mow people down with our opinions and our plans. (I hereby apologize to everyone I have in the past, or will in the future, take down like a Craftsman 3-in-1 self-propelled chopper.)

I think in some psychotherapy circles our control freakishism could be considered a treatable illness, but for us, it’s just how it is. Our unstated mantra: Get in line and follow our lead, or get the hell out of our way while we make this particular thing happen. (Being control freaks isn’t very fun for us, by the way. It might seem like it is, because we tend to get our way (a lot), but it’s actually quite exhausting. Some people go to the gym to feel the burn, we just manage our loved one’s lives.)

All of this is to bring me to the point of today’s Mother’s Day-themed blog post. My mom is one of the most talented cooks in the state of Texas, maybe in the whole damn country. She could season up a cow patty, smother it in her gravy, and you’d eat it like it was a sirloin and ask for more. No exaggeration. She’s that good. I seriously don’t think I have ever eaten anything — anything — in my 43 years as her daughter that I didn’t like. (No comment needed here about the effect of this on my hourglass figure.)

My mom's version of chicken cacciatore would put this one to shame.

Even her so-called “mistakes,” are delicious. It doesn’t matter what the dish is, a soup, casserole, salad, cobbler, breakfast taco, you name it. If it’s a “Sue’s Surprise,” you’d elbow out a hungry child to get to it first.

But here’s the rub: She doesn’t allow people, like, er, her daughters, in her domain. Her kitchen is pretty much off limits. She may say she wants your help, but she doesn’t mean it. Because she needs to do it her way, which of course is the right way.

That means that everything I learned from her had to be learned on the sly. (Lucky! It just so happens that sly is something I do well.) I watched her from around the corner of the living room when she thought I was dusting. I memorized her techniques while she thought I was merely playing jacks or pick-up-sticks under her feet. (You didn’t have to nudge me so hard with that nasty old pink house shoe, by the way, Mom.) I even caught her at a low point after some surgery one time, while she was still under the influence of a great many pain killers, and convinced her to tell me some of her recipes that she keeps only in her head. I am not above resorting to these kinds of tactics for the greater good of society and the culinary arts.

My beautiful mother with an unknown stinkbug.

Nowadays, I think I’ve turned out to be a pretty good cook, too. (Not at legendary level, like her, but I can make a batch of enchiladas that’ll make you want to slap your pet alligator twice. Which sounds a little more risqué than I meant it to.) Basically, I can make her chili and her ranch dressing and her cornbread, but I haven’t mastered her apple pies or chicken-fried steak or roasted turkey.

I’m still learning, though. Every time I go home, I’ll continue to make mental notes, before she (figuratively this time) kicks me out from under her feet again. I’ll park myself at the kitchen table and watch her do her magic, whether she likes it or not. I’ll hold my son on my lap, as he watches her, too. I’ll tell her how amazing and beautiful she is, and how much I love her and her cooking.

But chances are, even with this little bit of kissing up, she still won’t let me mess around in her kitchen.


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7 thoughts on “Everything I Learned About Cooking I Learned from My Mama (Even Though She Doesn’t Let Me Near Her Kitchen)

  1. This is so adorable. I want Mama Harris’s home cooking!
    btw, I complain that Brandon never cooks, but the truth is when he does get in the kitchen I hover like a fly and tell him how to do it “my way”. I always end up taking over, so honestly I don’t blame the poor boy :) Great fun post!

  2. The pet alligator comment (actually your comment about the pet alligator comment) made me literally laugh out loud. Kathy, you slay me!! I love reading your blogs!

  3. This is a great post, Kathy! I can totally picture your mom shooing you out of the kitchen so she can do things her way. :-) Don’t you dare change your ways and stop being “sly.” Keep taking mental notes and watching her so you can learn more of her recipes.

    Happy Mother’s day to you and your mom.

  4. Thanks Kim and Melissa, for reading and enjoying my posts, even if it does require a glass of wine to read that point.

  5. Pingback: You Must Try This Recipe: Shrimp Tacos With Corn-Avocado Salsa | Kathy Lynn HarrisKathy Lynn Harris

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