On a recent trip home to Florida, my airport bound cab driver exclaimed, “Your mother must be so excited for you to come home so she can cook for you!” Clearly, this cabbie was raised in a household where the matriarch cooked often and took pride in feeding her young. In contrast, my feminist mom never really enjoyed the responsibility of putting dinner on the table for a family of four every night. As a Florida State Representative whose platform includes advancing women’s rights, I used to tell my mother’s friends that I wanted to be a housewife when I grew up just to piss her off.
Whereas I enjoy slowly ambling through the aisles of a grocery store for hours, Mom loathes the activity and gets in and out as quickly as possible.* Some of the condiments in our fridge are old enough to have high school degrees. On many evenings, I would come home from school and hear the ding of the microwave and Mom’s exuberant exclamation, “Frozen dinner night!” Unnaturally orange Lean Cuisine Mac and Cheese was a regular staple in my diet.
However, there were some special occasions that called for Mom’s most prized dish, aptly named “My Favorite Chicken”. Coming home from camp? My Favorite Chicken. Leaving for college? My Favorite Chicken. Traditional Friday night Shabbat dinner? Brisket. NO JUST KIDDING IT’S MY FAVORITE CHICKEN. While I’m normally more into side dishes than protein, My Favorite Chicken is sweet, juicy, and everything chicken should be. While it roasts in the oven for several hours, the house fills with the warm smell of the marinade, which is an unmeasured mix of Tom’s mild BBQ sauce, Saucy Susan Peach Apricot Sauce, and soy sauce. Anyone that walks in my house to this smell knows some serious shit is happening in our oven.
The last occasion that required My Favorite Chicken was the night before my grandmother’s funeral three weeks ago. All of my dad’s side of the family was in town, and instead of ordering in some heavy, greasy take out, mom wanted to soothe everyone’s heartache with a home cooked meal. The time and effort she put in really shone, and the smell of that kitchen definitely made me, and I’m sure my other relatives, feel less alone.
Although my mother is more Jon Stewart than Martha Stewart, even the biggest haters of the kitchen can make the most beautiful, important, and memorable meals.
*Our home grocer is Publix, which is known for its high quality and beautiful stores, so this is really a problem with her, not the store.