Mixed Feelings for Mother's Day


Due to reasons far too complicated to get into here, I had a very complex, not very happy relationship with my mother. She died when I was 18, resulting in an even more complicated, past-tense relationship.

However, I do have a few memories of her that can make me smile. Among them is her cooking. She was patently horrible in the kitchen; this resulted in my starting to cook out of self defense when I was about 6. But that, too, is another story, one  with the end result of my nagging tirelessly at my 15-year old daughter, Cecilia, to observe closely and learn to cook at least a handful of dishes. The horrible cook gene skipped a generation, leaving me unscathed, but it may have picked up again in my daughter. I am uncertain; she has 0 interest in learning to cook anything beyond store-bought cookie mix so I have no idea whether or not the potential for a respectable etouffee lurks within her. 

I have shared stories of my mother's culinary prowess before and, in the interest of experiencing a pre-Mother's day smile on my own late mother's behalf, I will share them again.

In the first I was 7 or so, and milk-fed baby veal was all the rage. Knowing what I know today, I thoroughly disavow the inhumane procurement of this product, but back then I was clueless and curious. I will never forget the day my equally clueless mother plopped some unadorned tender pink veal cutlets from the Piggy Wiggly grocery on Old Metairie Road into a pan, poured in a jar of Heinz Chicken Gravy, and proceeded to smother the delicate meat for hours. I have no words.

In another act of culinary heroism, one Sunday my mother pulled from the cupboard a pressure cooker someone was fool enough to give her. Into it she plunked a beef roast, carrots, potatoes, onions, and celery. She poured in some water, tightened up the lid on the cooker, and cranked up the heat, no doubt intending to leave the contents to cook for hours on end, until nothing in the pot was recognizable, as was her custom. At some point, so much pressure built up in the forgotten pot that the contents of the vessel started shooting forth from the little pressure-relief nozzle at the top of the lid. We watched in disbelief as a volcano of roast beef streamed steadily from the vessel for 10 minutes or so, coating the ivory-hued kitchen ceiling with brown muck. When the blast subsided, my daring father approached the pot and untwisted the lid to reveal a single pinkie-sized scrap of carrot remaining within. That day was the last time I remember her cooking—except for 2 things: Creole Italian Meatballs and Spaghetti, a fail-proof recipe she lifted from a college roommate; and Pecan Ice Box Cookies, the recipe for which came from who knows where.

I remember her making the pecan cookies for holiday gatherings, and she was justifiably famous for them. Their perfection may have, in fact, obliterated her other culinary misdeeds in the minds of everyone but me. Thin, crisp, perfect, and loaded with sweet Louisiana pecans gathered from my grandparents’ yard, they were then and will always be a welcome holiday calling card. To those of you out there harboring insecurities about your cooking and baking skills, I say, if my mother could pull this recipe off ANYONE can.

The Meatballs and Spaghetti, as well. Though no respectable Tuscan would ever claim this sauce, for those of us who favor Creole Italian flavors it will do just fine; very fine indeed.

We all have our  faults; we also have our gifts and talents. These were two of my mother's.

Happy Mother's Day. 




Jyl, I was much more fortunate than you with my mother's cooking skills! Her only regret in life was that she constantly failed at making homemade fudge and pralines, which I guess is a blessing to me, because they are my absolute favorite sweets~!
Being from the heart of Cajun Country and raised on "rice & gravy" - which ran through our veins and was the main dish in any household in the Acadiana area almost every day, my most memorable moments of my mother, who passed away on Feb 21, 2003, was coming home from school and smelling the aroma of smothered 7-steaks, which she browned ever-so slowly with onions and bell peppers, served over FLUFFY WHITE RICE and a side of petite pois (young sweet peas). And if we were lucky, she would have baked her famous Duncan Hines Yellow Cake with her homemade Hershey's Chocolate Frosting - combine that with an ice cold glass of Borden's Milk..OMG!..Damn! Life was good back then!  Miss you Mom ~ Happy Mother's Day ;'(


This is a sweet, wonderful story. I hope Cecilia has memories like this of me that she will share one day. Happy Mother's Day, Hawt!



Here is a little story about my Mother. I’ll always remember her for the patience she had and the time she took to introduce me to fine food and cooking. I had the best of both worlds; surrounded by Cajun cooking and my Mom preparing Creole dishes from the New Orleans area.
My mother and father moved to Cecilia, Louisiana, a small un-incorporated Cajun village on the Bayou Teche in north St. Martin Parish, at the end of WW II.  My father was born and raised in Arnaudville, Louisiana, about six miles north of Cecilia and speaks fluent French. My mother is from Metairie, speaks no French and had to adapt her New Orleans style recipes to ingredients that were available in a small town; the big-city markets weren’t available in Cecilia.  One of my favorite dishes was her New Orleans style grillades. The term was confusing to me back then because my Cajun friends ate grillades, but it is was a sort of pickled pork steak dish (which I later learned was called Grillades Mariné), while classic New Orleans style grillades is/was prepared with un-marinated veal round steak. My mother’s grandmother, known to us as Gram, would have a fit if it was prepared with anything but veal.
Veal wasn’t available in Cecilia, so Mom used beef round steak, which she would pound down with a tenderizing hammer (that’s another story!). Another ingredient Mom used in her grillades, and everything else it seemed, was olive oil; not usually found on rural Cajun grocery store shelves (lard and cottonseed oil were the primary cooking fats in Cajun Country then). But, back then warm olive oil was used to treat earache in infants and was usually kept on the same shelf as castor oil, Epsom salts, asafetida and other “old-time” remedies.  I can remember going to Mr. George Calais’s grocery store in Cecilia to get olive oil for Mom. I’d ask Mr. George for olive oil and get a shrug; Mr. George didn’t speak much English, but his wife, Miss Carrie, did and she would always ask him in French to get a bottle of “huile d’olive” off the shelf for me.
My first culinary epiphany occurred when Mom was browning round steak in olive oil for grillades; I was about twelve years old then and can recall walking into the kitchen and just being overwhelmed by the aroma. I remember thinking to myself, “I have got to learn how to prepare this”… and Mom did teach me. I’ll send the recipe if you like.
Ken Morrogh
New Iberia, Louisiana

You need to share the grillades recipe...PLEASE!!!!!!! 

Lillian's Grillades

1 whole beef round steak, bone in, at least two pounds
ground thyme
olive oil
1 large bell pepper, chopped
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
2 cups beef stock or water
1 bunch green onions, chopped

Trim fat and membrane from steak and cut into serving size pieces. Pound the pieces
down with a meat tenderizer, or back of a heavy chef's knife, to about 1/4 inch
thickness. Season steak to taste with salt, pepper, paprika and thyme. Mix meat
together such that the seasoning coats each piece well. Dredge meat in flour until
well coated and shake off excess flour.

Cover the bottom of a large skillet or dutch oven with olive oil and, using medium-
high heat, brown the meat, including the bone. Work in batches if necessary. Remove
meat and reserve. Add all the vegetables except the green onions, add a pinch of
salt and a healthy pinch of thyme, then saute until wilted, stirring occasionally.

Add the tomato paste along with one-fourth cup of water. Blend the tomato paste into
the vegetables and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is a
rich brown color. If the mixture tends to dry out, add a little water.

Return the meat, along with any juices, to the pot and stir into the vegetable
mixture. Add warm water or beef stock (about two cups) to cover the meat, stir to
combine. Cover and simmer until the meat is very tender, 1 1/2 to 2 hours Stir
occasionally and add a little water if the gravy dries out.

About five minutes before service, corrrect seasoning, add a few dashes of Tabasco and throw in a handful of chopped green onions.

Serve with cooked rice.

Grits is the traditional accompaniment for grillades in New Orleans. Rice reigns in Cajun country.

Ken Morrogh
New Iberia, LA