It was late in the year of 2010 and my in-laws and I were hunkered at my mother-in-law and father-in-law’s house because my mother-in-law was dying of cancer.
We were all pretty lucky with our employers (at that time, I only had Mini-ion #1, but was doing some part-time consulting at my previous ad agency) that they gave us the flexibility to be there/work from “home” so we could all be together.
My mother-in-law was a fabulous, intuitive cook. Even the dishes that she brought to the table and told us all the things that were wrong with them, were still really, really right. She had two favorite chefs that she followed, Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa) and Lidia Bastianich and watched them religiously on the food network.
As I mentioned, we were all hunkered down at my in-laws house, and feeling tense and out of sorts. I happened to pick up one of my mother-in-law’s Barefoot Contessa cookbooks to leaf through as I literally didn’t know what to do with myself and my feelings. And reading that cookbook literally put me at ease. In the same way that Ina Garten comes across in her cooking shows, I found such comfort in her words about how to simplify your entertaining. Her tag line, “How simple was that?” emanated through that book and brought my “sorts” together.
We weren’t there long before my mother-in-law passed away, peacefully, within the embrace of her family, telling her we loved her. We all stayed at the house for the funeral and then, as timing will have it, Christmas. We ripped ourselves out of that nest shortly after Christmas to go face the world again, minus one.
At that point, my consulting job was just about over and I was back to being a full-time stay at home mom. With all the upheaval we had experienced in the last three months, it was a tough transition and I was searching for comfort. So I started DVRing all of the Barefoot Contessa cooking shows. And watched them all. Because it felt like a connection to my mother-in-law who was so desperately missed.
It really started inspiring me. To do more as a cook. To quit relying on the boxes and the prepared foods and to make more of my own foods. I started with making my own chicken stock. I loosely follow Ina’s recipe
- I use chicken thighs because they are cheaper (and more flavorful)
- After two hours, I will try to grab as much of the chicken as I can (throwing back the fat, chicken bones and gristle) and use it for shredded chicken recipes like chicken salad, chicken corn chowder and the like (I just can’t abide by throwing out that much chicken)
- I keep a bag in my freezer for spare parts and mostly fill it when, for example, I buy a full celery but don’t need it all, I’ll throw the rest in a freezer bag for stock. Or buy fresh herbs and only need a tiny bit, the remaining parsley, dill and thyme goes in the freezer bag. When I roast a chicken, the carved chicken bones go in the bag. Hopefully by the time I make stock, I’m literally only buying the chicken
These tips/trade-offs help make the cost of the chicken stock more affordable as compared to buying it at the store. I feel better making my family’s food. And I’m hoping that these will be things the mini-ions remember and help me to pass down the legacy of my mother-in-law to her grandchildren.
- Reflections on the My Mother-in-Law (mcraig23.wordpress.com)
- One Year With Breast Cancer… For Mom Day 1 (laurabwilliamsdesigns.wordpress.com)