The summer after my father died, my siblings and I held an estate sale to get rid of all of the things he and my mother had accumulated through the years. If you've never done this, you might be surprised to hear how emotionally charged this kind of thing is. It is just the strangest tug on your heart & belly when some stranger picks up some little knick-knack-- one you've always thought was hideous even -- and judges it, deciding whether they will take it or not. There were at least two situations where I would not take someone's offer because I couldn't let the stranger in question have the item. For example, one woman wanted to buy all of my mother's teddy bears for her dogs to play with and destroy! I just couldn't allow it. There were many items I decided I must have, they were too full of memory or some other kind of sweetness that I couldn't quite name. I kept so many bizarre items. My father's work boots. My mother's Saint Francis statue. I just couldn't part with these things yet.
Most important of all to me were my mother's cookbooks and folders full of clipped recipes. In fact, these became the birth of MoJo's Kitchen. My original idea was to gather all of the recipes into a book then blog my way through that book, making each recipe one by one. This plan never materialized because MoJo's Kitchen became something other than a "cooking blog." There were other more important matters to tend to for a while there. But today I got it into my head that I would fulfill this original plan so I began on page one. Shrimp with Chesapeake dipping sauce & crispy scallops with chipotle tartar sauce.
Gathering the ingredients for this tapas-style menu was fun. I discovered a super cool fish market in Saginaw that sells just about anything that lives in water. No kidding. I saw "turtle" on the fresh catch board!. I finally went inside Mercato di O&V -- a little oil & vinegar shop downtown midland-- and discovered their fun assortment of delicious salts. One was "bonfire-smoked" flavor. Yummy! And I went to a whole new grocery store in Auburn while my daughter was at her tumbling class.
I threw these dishes together in between carting Lucy to tumbling, driving Estlin to swimming, and watching a friend's son after school for an hour or so. They were crazy easy -- even with some of the tweaks I made. The shrimp, for example, turned out to be the wrong size for dipping (They look bigger before they're cooked) so instead I came up with a kind of shrimp & Parmesan bruschetta-type-thingy.
And though these little toasts look like they'd be tasty, I have to admit that these recipes were a failure. Essentially both of the recipes hinge on tartar sauce and/or mayonnaise. The shrimp sauce was basically a creamy cocktail sauce, loaded with horseradish. The sauce for the scallops was just tartar sauce spiced up with chipotle salsa, for the most part. And, friends, I'm not a big mayo-or-tartar-sauce-eating kind of gal anymore. I don't know that anyone really likes these nasty fat-laden sauces with food as light and simple as shrimp & scallops. If I had to think of a hundred ways to prepare & eat shrimp & scallops, these ways would be last on the list.
Still...my mother kept these recipes. There must be something special or even magical about them, right? Hhmmmm...not necessarily. This whole endeavor got me thinking. Maybe my mother's clipped recipes aren't all that special. Maybe the fact that one day while out at the grocery store she grabbed two recipes from the seafood counter that looked mildly yummy isn't all that earth-shatteringly important. Maybe like my father's work boots and broken, old boom box, I don't really need to keep these recipes around or honor & cherish them as much as I have these past two years. Looking around my kitchen, my office, my room, I certainly have a fair amount of things that certainly are not sacred to me in any way. Our lives are filled with that kind of junk. It's only when we die that the people we leave behind imbue our junk with all kinds of precious meaning.
Above all of this, most of the recipes my mother clipped were not healthy. In fact, what I have gathered in this notebook were the healthiest ones of the bunch. I specifically did not keep ridiculously high fat or high calorie recipes. But...these first recipes prove, I didn't weed out enough. My mother's eating habits were the absolute model of the typical American diet -- high fat, high calorie, processed, processed, processed. Many of these recipes were clipped from those homemaker magazines that are always promising dinner in less than 5 minutes. Many of these 5 minute dinners rely on heavy doses of processed ingredients. Today's recipes are no exception.
Despite discovering a couple of great local places and meeting one very cool store owner (Mercato), it occurs to me that this plan to make all of the recipes my mother clipped but didn't necessarily have the chance to make (at least not for me) really threw my day out of balance. Instead of focusing on what I could do to be healthier, instead of creating a balanced dinner with plenty of vegetables and good, whole grains, I spent most of my day making junk food. Instead of using the cooking skills my mother taught me for good, I allowed myself to be sucked into the unhealthy choices my mother made in her diet that eventually contributed to her untimely demise. That's not what MoJo's Kitchen is all about. I mean, I know this place is often a jumbled mess but I at least know that much. Health is central. Health is key.
So...I am once again, plan-less with no structure to pull this blog along in a direction that makes any real sense. But, I've recently been told many times that the way through grief is unpredictable and often winding. It's only recently occurred to me that I am still very much grieving my mother. Of course, part of me will always be grieving my mother. Always. But...since my mother's death, so many things have happened to distract me from the process of mourning her loss. My sister-in-law died just two weeks after my mother, leaving a much larger part of my brain and heart concerned about my nieces and nephew than my own grief. My husband and I decided to split up then decided to not split up then he left then we got back together then we moved three times. In the meantime, my father died. Then this past summer happened and I am still very much reeling from that. In short, there has not been time to mourn my mother properly. I thought that perhaps making one of her clipped recipes every day would help me hold to that process more firmly. Now I realize that project may just be another way to distract myself from the mourning process--again.
On the other hand, we had fun today in MoJo's Kitchen, Mo & I. We listened to "Having A Party" and "That's Where It's At" by Sam Cooke and "Looking for a Boy" by Ella Fitzgerald and "Just My Soul Responding" by Smokey Robinson and then, of course, "Someday, We'll be Together" by The Supremes. We enjoyed our little drive to Saginaw (we LOVE to drive!) and the feeling that we were on a secret mission. So, even though the food wasn't good, the company was.
Tomorrow, MoJo's Kitchen will refrain from using mayonnaise in any way. In this way, we will repent for tonight's tartar sauce orgy.
Namaste & Vaya Con Dios.