It was 1997 maybe 96, I’m not sure which. The past is divided by location more than time. We were in the upstairs apartment on Parkman, no pets allowed, when a sister and her husband came over for lunch. They raved about my cooking, helped theirselves to more. That was the last time that she ever walked through my door.
Two moves and a cat later, I made a beef spread using my great-grandmother’s recipe, macaroni salad with baby shrimps, and dilly eggs for a family picnic in a park.
Yes, we used to have family gatherings. I have four sisters, each with families of their own. The oldest lived out of state then, but the others were there. I forget the occasion. The weather was mild, easy to maintain chilled temperatures for food safety, so it might have been in late Spring.
Potluck-style family gatherings were occasions when I could tap my culinary experience to create foods that looked as good as they taste. Dilly eggs are just a variation of deviled eggs, with a little yellow mustard and dill added for flavor. I always add extra yolks, use a star tip to pipe the filling into the whites, and garnish for a beautiful presentation. My other dishes were also garnished.
The first clue that sometimes was up was the stern look a sister gave her husband just as he was about to help himself to some of the macaroni salad. After a moment of silence, he lowered the serving spoon back into the bowl. Okay, maybe he’s allergic to shellfish. Then I saw another sister shake her head “no” when a child reached for an egg.
That’s when I started to pay attention. Eighteen people in attendance and the ONLY person who would eat anything that I made was my dad. He went out of his way to praise my dishes and talked about how much the beef spread brought back memories of his grandmother. It was obvious that some of the guys wanted to try it, but no one did. It was the first time ever that I came home from a family function with full containers.
My sisters, being how they are, were not satisfied with by my reaction. Or should I say, lack of reaction?
Pretending to be oblivious must have zapped the joy out of their orchestrated attempt to hurt my feelings. That’s the only way to win at messed up sister games – don’t give them the satisfaction of a reaction.
Of course, their next move was to have someone call to tell me that my sisters told everyone not to eat my food because it’s laced with cat hair and cigarette ashes.
Talk about overactive imaginations! That’s just cartoon stupid. It’s a wonder they didn’t throw in snot for good measure.
Picture this… cartoon chef in a cartoon kitchen stirring at the stove with a cartoon cigarette dangling out of his mouth, ashes falling into the pot, with cartoon cats up on counters slicing cartoon veggies with their very sharp claws… yes, I laughed.
I assured the caller that I don’t smoke while cooking and cats are not allowed on kitchen counters. Ironically, the sister who has not been in my home since before I got a cat was blamed for starting the rumor.
I hope she reported back that I laughed and said the whole thing was so stupid, it’s comical. What I didn’t tell her was that I had already vowed to never cook for those people again.
I kept that vow for over 20 years, showing up at family gatherings with obviously purchased foods in sealed packaging and always with a joke, like pull out a package of Oreos and say, “I baked cookies.”
And that’s how I earned the reputation of “Nancy doesn’t cook, she has to dust her stove.”
I do cook. If I had some dill, I’d make some dilly eggs just to snap a photo. As an alternative, here’s a photo that I snapped to show my cousin when he asked what I was making for lunch.
It’s just little bits of leftovers, sliced steak and chili beans, on street taco tortillas with toppings… drats! Forgot to add cat hairs and ashes, lol.
Thanks for reading!