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Suddenly realizing that ‘my mother has ruined my life’

By Steve Stricker

Ash Wednesday began on the first of the month. Ole Miss baseball is underway; women’s SEC basketball tournament began on the second; men’s SEC basketball tournament began on the eighth; we “spring forward” in time today; Ole Miss’s spring break begins tomorrow (have fun, be safe); men’s NCAA Division 1 “Madness” basketball tournament starts on the 14th (hope we make it); 17th is St. Patrick’s Day, first day of spring is the 20th; the trees and bulbs I brought from Gert’s (my mom) in southern Missouri are in or near full bloom and spewing lovely stuff into the air that is attacking my allergies; yard needs mowing/weeded; and dozens of projects await me — but I have been inflicted for weeks with a bloody-hell cold that has kept me home, miserable, and refuses to go away.

Stricker’s mother, Gert, a registered nurse who cooked for her family from scratch, has not been matched to this day.

On a chilly evening recently, I wished Gert (a registered nurse) was here to give me advice about this cold and began craving a bowl of her chili made from ground beef with crushed crackers (stretcher), eggs, red beans, her canned tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and bit of bacon grease (everything had bacon grease).  All this started me thinking about all her wonderful food creations, laid-back creative artistic demeanor and beauty (no woman has yet measured up) and strong work ethic (often working double shifts at the hospital and sometimes private duty to help run the house). She took good care of daddy, me and my three older sisters; was my faith inspiration; did everything on a limited budget, and I realized — MY MOM HAD RUINED MY LIFE!

When I cook from “scratch,” I use store stuff and mix things together into a sometimes inedible concoction. Everything Gert cooked was awesome. She started from real scratch — ground beef, a real pumpkin, apples from grandmas, cracked pecans from the tree in the Catholic schoolyard across from our house; made her own flaky, light, not perfect-looking crust from flour, made extra crust rolled flat and sprinkled with sugar and cinnamon; peas, green beans, real red juicy tomatoes, potatoes, onions etc from the garden she shared with Aunt Beatrice, and then created magnificent meals and banquets from leftovers.

Her hamburgers were to kill for!  She would take ground beef, add crushed white crackers, couple eggs, take a small lump, mash it flat and thin, fry in bacon grease, put thinly sliced onions and buns in the same skillet for a second or two, and added cheese and dill pickles if desired – nothing better.

She put a slice of cheese on white bread topped by a slice of Braunschweiger, toasted in the oven; apple salad from chopped apples, pecans, celery, raisins, and mayonnaise; sauerkraut from cabbage (sort of stinky when cooking) with wieners that I put ketchup on; spinach from the garden with hard-boiled eggs and her delicious cornbread; white beans (soaked overnight) and ham hock soup; vegetable and chicken soup; stew; spaghetti from noodles and hand-made meat balls; baked bread; green bean casserole; creamed eggs on toast; French toast; dumplings from dough; bacon, eggs and country ham from Grandma’s; egg sandwiches with bacon that I mashed flat; whatever cookie (not perfectly round) you can think of and always burned mine a bit because she knew I liked them that way.

Gert fried liver very thin with onions and in bacon grease; fried chicken that put the colonel to shame; her meatloaf was awesome, and on Friday’s she deep-fried fish; hush puppies and French fries from potatoes; cheese sandwiches by putting cheese (sliced from a chunk of cheese) on white bread, buttered a “thing” that had a lid and toasted them flat and served with tomato soup; toasted banana-peanut butter-mayo-lettuce sandwiches; delicious pancakes and waffles from an old black waffle-thing, and her delicious tuna fish casserole that utilized stale potato chips on top.

The cast iron skillets Gert used looked like they needed to be thrown out and she always left the bacon grease in them.  Thank you, mother! I miss and love you. Wow, am I hungry!

Happy Spring, y’all!  GO REBELS!

Steve Stricker received his Ph.D. in Counseling from Ole Miss. He can be reached at sstricke@olemiss.edu.