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My Mother's Recipes (and one from my father)

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Posted (edited)

When my mother recently passed away, because we are a scattered family, one of my younger brothers had the great idea of setting up a private Facebook page for the immediate family to talk in – mainly about funeral arrangements but also just in general.


One topic, which I inadvertently started, was about her cooking. It’s fair to say, and she would agree, that cooking was not her forte. She was able to feed us but it was never exciting. That’s me being respectful.


So we were joking amongst ourselves about that when the subject of her two most ‘original’ recipes came up and we each tried to remember exactly what was in them. Here, to the best of our ability, is what we agreed on.


Pasta Mish-Mash




Pasta. This had to be Marshall’s macaroni, a Scottish speciality and the only pasta I ever ate until I was about 18 years-old, apart from tinned spaghetti, usually in the form of spaghetti hoops.




Bacon. This would normally be unsmoked Ayrshire back bacon. Not American bacon!




Onions. White onions. We didn’t know they came in other colours.


Tomatoes. Scottish tomatoes are surprisingly good.


Salt. Common iodised table salt. You know. Natural salt. None of your fancy sea flavoured salt nonsense!




Pepper. Black pre-ground and stale.






Boil pasta according to pack instructions. Or a bit longer if you get distracted. Drain.


Cut bacon into pieces. Chop onion approximately finely. Chop tomatoes into eighths. Fry bacon and vegetables. When ready add drained pasta and mix. Apply seasoning if you remember. Even if you remember, under season.




Polish Salad


During WWII, around 17,000 Polish soldiers were stationed in Scotland, first temporarily in the border areas but later in east Scotland where my mother lived. (Her elder sister married one of them). Family lore has it (from my mother) that she learned this recipe from one or more of those soldiers.

I’m fairly certain that there was little if anything Polish about it, but suppose its possible it was those soldiers’ attempt to recreate something from home without really knowing the recipe and having to use whatever they could find in the way of ingredients.

If anyone here is Polish, of Polish descent or just knows more about Polish food than I do knows of any Polish dish that this could even vaguely resemble, I’d love to know. It was memorably distinctive - bright purple. I'm sure it glowed in the dark.








Hard boiled eggs

Pickled beetroot (store bought and pickled in malt vinegar)




Heinz Tomato Ketchup

Brown Sauce, preferably HP Sauce.







Chop all the ingredients except the ketchup and brown sauce into small pieces and mix together.


Mix ketchup and brown sauce in a 50:50 ratio, and fold into the other ingredients. If too dry, add a little of the beetroot pickling liquid.




Father's 'recipe' coming up next.


Edited by liuzhou (log)
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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Like so many of his generation (born 1930), my father probably didn’t know we had a kitchen until late in life. Food just appeared magically through some secret sorcery only known to women. He ate what was put in front of him, never praising or criticising. It was what it was.

After he retired, he went exploring the house and discovered the kitchen. Then he discombobulated everyone by deciding that he would take over the role of making Sunday breakfast. Usually, this was just for my mother, but if any of the family were visiting, them too.


Breakfast consisted of bacon rolls. Grilled / broiled unsmoked Ayrshire bacon in buttered Scottish bread rolls. Well, I say ‘buttered’. Actually he used one of those light margarine spreads. Butter was never a feature of our diet. I think I was 18 before I tasted real butter. I never looked back.




Here is a link to a photograph of the bread rolls.

Over the next few years he learned that we all had our preferences as to how we liked our bacon rolls. The degree of doneness; how much bacon per roll etc. I preferred crisp bacon and to forego the ‘butter’ and rely on the bacon fat to provide lubrication.

With 5 children and their spouses; 14 grand-children and, in some cases, their spouses; and who knows how many great-grand-children, it was quite an achievement to memorise all these individual quirks, but he somehow managed.

He became ill in around 2005 and slowly deteriorated before dying in 2008. Since then no one has cooked or eaten a bacon roll in my parent’s house, so when I returned in 2019 for my mother’s 90th birthday, I ate no bacon at all.


But we al have fond memories of Dad’s bacon rolls!

If you find yourself in Scotland this place in Edinburgh is strongly recommended. I've never been myself, but friends whose judgement I trust have praised their bacon rolls highly.


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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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That is really nice. Your mom seems like a special lady - loved the caution about not using the word "hate" - I grew up with that caution as well. Especially connected with her caution about judging people on superficial things. Not my history unfortunately.  Family recipe sharing and preservation matters to me. In all my moves I managed to preserve all the handwritten notes. I did up a book for my sister years ago (copy for me) - best of the best. She sobbed. I consult it often.

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 I should have noted that none of us have any intentions of making my mother's recipes, but we enjoyed reminiscing about them.

One of her grand-daughters, my niece, does want to try to recreate the sherry trifle she made every Christmas. I never liked that.

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...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.


The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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The memories matter. My sister does not make the recipes but the notes evoke pleasant times. For your niece the danger is that reality and fond memory in a recreation do not always intersect as planned. Wish her well.

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Posted (edited)

I love that your dad had everyone's bacon roll preference down pat and that folks are honest about your mother's cooking!  I had a great grandmother that everyone talks about like she was an angel on earth - you could hardly believe that she was real.  You think that they are romanticizing  her until cooking is mentioned.  Then they all shake their heads and say, emphatically, "Oh no, she was a horrible cook!". 😄

Edited by Kim Shook (log)
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  • 2 weeks later...

I love this thread. 


My mother was a dreadful cook, but disciplined and dutiful.  When she made "spaghetti" -- a dish which, on it's own, my father did NOT accept as functioning as some kind of meal, because he was staunchly opposed to filling your belly with starch -- but when she made spaghetti, the spaghetti was boiled a hundred years; rinsed in cold water (to remove the excess starch!); and returned to the double boiler (the one with the holes, I believe in other homes this was called a "steamer").  It stayed in the double-boiler for the whole time while the rest of the meal cooked.  It could be hours.      


You guys.  I am still really angry about this.


Anyway.  @liuzhou, I still remember the picture you posted of your mother's face when you appeared in front of her at her party.  It sounds like she had a long, full life; I am sorry for your loss.

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My Mother wasn't much of a cook, but then she had no interest in food at all.  She was a vegetarian (sort of) and supper for her was usually a soft boiled egg (yuck) and consommé.  She also ate canned asparagus.  I didn't know that it came fresh.  My dinner was a steak, every single night....EVERY SINGLE *&^%$#$$ NIGHT...well, not really every night....broiled to tough shoe leather.  The paediatrician said he would not take care of me unless my Mother fed me meat.  And, oh she did.  I haven't deliberately eaten steak since I was 18 and left home.  


In the 50s, we got a freezer plan and that was pretty horrible.  Frozen peas and carrots.  Horrible.  Cheap ice cream.  Still don't really like ice cream...not even my own rich and creamy stuff.   Fish fingers.  What an abomination they were.  Little pork sausages burned so that the casings were thick and tough but the innards still had little bits in them.  My face still screws up as I type remembering about those horrible little rubbery bits.  Oh, haven't eaten pork sausages either.  Or fish fingers.  Biscuits like hockey pucks made from Bisquik.  Pineapple upside down cake she made.  Hate it.  Horribly sweet.  Why am I doing this?  I'll quit now. 

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learn, learn, learn...


Life in the Meadows and Rivers

Cheers & Chocolates

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I am sorry to hear of your mother's passing Liuzhou, I remember the birthday party you shared with us a while back.   


It's definitely for the memories that we recall - fondly or not! - what we ate as children.  My memories of certain meals mirrors my siblings (my sister in particular would hide the white fish doused in ketchup 🤢 in her napkin to keep from eating it but make is disappear from the plate!) and in the summer, my father would surprise us with a big container of ice cream and we'd make frappes/milkshakes; or we'd go clamming and have the entire extended family over for steamers.  And we knew when we got hot dogs and beans or pastina on a Saturday night, we were getting a babysitter and my parents were going out.  Before I left home, I handcopied all of my mother's recipes into my own steno book and I still have the steno book.  I go through it sometimes - knowing I'm not going to make anything from it - and smile at the memories.

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Darienne, we could have been twins separated at birth.   Except, my mother stuffed steak down me as diet food.   On the positive side, I have little taste for steak today which is probably good for my health.  

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eGullet member #80.

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My mother made extraordinary from scratch baking powder biscuits and fabulous French bread.    Even into her late '80s.    Her daily fare was balanced, and tailored to my father's meat and potato preferences.    I do remember garlicky lamb shanks,and what I grew up knowing as "lambcurryandrice".    Always vegetables from the back yard.  

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eGullet member #80.

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39 minutes ago, Margaret Pilgrim said:

My mother made extraordinary from scratch baking powder biscuits and fabulous French bread.


Chile'.  I would've been that annoying neighbor-kid who had to be flat-out ousted to get to go home.  


I know this because, my actual next-door neighbor as a kid lived in a house with real cheese, which they had every afternoon for this event called a "snack".  I basically tried to be living there, every afternoon. 


Because over at my house, such a suggestion for a "snack" was met with, "you'll spoil your dinner!".



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26 minutes ago, SLB said:


Chile'.  I would've been that annoying neighbor-kid who had to be flat-out ousted to get to go home.  


I know this because, my actual next-door neighbor as a kid lived in a house with real cheese, which they had every afternoon for this event called a "snack".  I basically tried to be living there, every afternoon. 


Because over at my house, such a suggestion for a "snack" was met with, "you'll spoil your dinner!".



We actually had that neighbor kid visitor.    I particularly remember when he waited for an apple pie to cool enough to cut.    My mother cut him a piece, nudging more apples onto his portion and less crust.    He looked at it and tears started to pour down his face.   "Mrs. xxxxx, I like PIE, not APPLESAUCE!"   

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eGullet member #80.

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  • 2 weeks later...

My mother was an absolutely wonderful cook. I grew up on a farm so all our meals were pretty simple and still pretty stupendous. And except for breakfast, every meal that she made, she had to make two meals. One for us and one for my father who was a pain in the butt. He had every food allergy known to man and a few that he made up all by himself. All he wanted on his food was salt because any other type of seasoning would have killed him. She even had to fry the meat in separate Skillets because the seasoning from our food might migrate onto his and kill him. The meals that she set in front of us were well seasoned and imaginative and Lord help us if we didn't eat it because she said that she was determined not to turn five more people loose into the world like him. That said, she loved him dearly and put up with every one of his idiosyncrasies.

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