The theme at 52 Ancestors this week is Food & Drink. I grew up in the 70s, the era of Jell-O salads, salmon mousse, Hamburger Helper, TV Dinners and Cool Whip. Yes, I know TV Dinners were invented in the 50s but they became really popular in the 70s, and they often found their way to our table when I was a kid.
Although all the above mentioned foods were popular when I was growing up, the things I remember most from my mother’s kitchen was the smell of a big pot of chilli or homemade chicken soup simmering on the stove.
Mum was a practical cook. She grew up in the 30s so her style of cooking reflected this. Dad was a meat potatoes man so most nights the main meal consisted of mashed or boiled potato, two vegetables, and meat. Shake n’ Bake chicken made a regular appearance as did meatloaf, and liver with onions.
We rarely ate rice, although I do remember Rice A Roni sometimes being on the dinner table. The only pasta that was popular was macaroni. We sometimes would have Kraft Dinner but mostly mum would make a macaroni casserole. The thing I remember most about mum’s macaroni casserole was that everybody liked it… except me. The casserole consisted of cooked macaroni, canned tomatoes, ground beef, celery, and a bit of onion. All topped with a thick layer of cheese and baked in the oven. I can’t remember her using many herbs at all in her cooking. Mostly she seasoned food with a bit of salt and pepper and maybe a tiny bit of garlic. This casserole made a regular appearance and I remember the only bit I would eat was a bit of cheese on the top. Thankfully, bread and butter was always on the table.
Another dish that mum made that everyone liked except me was one she called Hash. This consisted of ground beef, diced potatoes and a bit of onion. The beef was browned with some onion then the potatoes were diced small and added along with water. No herbs or spices that I can remember, just a bit of salt and pepper. Dad loved it and I remember my Uncle Sam, mum’s younger brother loved it too. Whenever Uncle Sam and Aunt Helen would visit, the subject of mum’s Hash would always come up. Aunt Helen would jokingly remark that only my mum made Hash the way he liked it.
Although I remember hating mum’s Hash I was also curious about it at the same time. I often asked mum why it was called Hash and she always just said “because that’s what it’s called.” Years later I came to the conclusion that the appeal was probably based more on nostalgia, than anything else. It was one of those those dishes you ate as a kid, and it was the memories attached to it that you loved the most. As I studied and learned more about my French Canadian heritage I discovered that this dish called Hash that mum always made, was most likely something Gramma Jamieson had also made. I suspect it may have been a version of Hachis or maybe it comes from the French verb Hacher meaning to cut up.
Takeaway food wasn’t something that I remember having very often, but when we did it was usually fish and chips from Division Fish and Chips. The fish was batter heavy and greasy, but I loved the chips and the vinegar based coleslaw. I remember it came as a side in a tiny paper cup and for me that was the best part of the meal.
Although I did learn the basics of cooking from my mum, my style of cooking is nothing like my mother’s. I love experimenting with new ingredients and use lots of herbs and spices. Occasionally though, I will make a pot of chilli or chicken soup, two of my favourite comfort foods.