Growing up, I gained a peculiar understanding of the phrase "home-cooked meal." Generally, my mother (MOS) would speak those words ironically, as she popped a Stouffer's lasagna in the oven or handed me the menu from the Chinese take-out or announced that we would feast that evening at the Mark Twain Diner (where "Today's Special" was always scrod). My stepfather cooked: He was big on roast beef or the occasional chicken parmigiana. MOS, though, was never what you would call the typical, sitcom-style mom, slaving over a hot stove for hours to prepare nine-course meals. Don't get me wrong: I never went hungry. But MOS was generally too worn out from days dealing with middle-schoolers to whip up culinary feasts even if she had been so inclined.
One day, though, when I was in college, MOS stumbled upon an article in Consumer Reports, which rated chocolate-chip cookie mixes. I believe Betty Crocker won their taste test. MOS read the report and was intrigued at how simple the whole thing looked. Why, she might even try making these cookies.
I don't think I guffawed, but I can't imagine I was able to keep a look of skepticism off my face.
"I can make those cookies!"
"I don't doubt that you could do it. But you expect me to believe you will?"
This must have been early in the year--January or February--because we arrived at an agreement: If I managed to bring home a 4.0 GPA that semester, MOS would make the cookies. Honestly, neither of us truly believed this would be an issue: I was a good student, but not a great one; I had never managed straight A's before. Still, this provided MOS a nice, face-saving way out of her ill-considered boast.
Well, you can imagine what happened. And MOS was true to her word. She went out and bought a package of Betty Crocker's chocolate chip cookie mix. And really, how hard could it be? The instructions were incredibly simple: They essentially called for placement of blobs of cookie dough on a sheet, placing said sheet in the oven, and waiting. Delicious homemade cookies were mere minutes away.
There's an episode of "The Simpsons"--one of their Halloween specials--that features a take-off on "Harry Potter." Bart and Lisa go to Hogwarts, where Lisa (naturally) excels, and Bart can do nothing right. When asked to transform a frog into a prince, Bart creates this vomiting abomination, who croaks, "Every moment I live is agony."
If MOS's cookies could speak, they would have said the same thing.
What emerged from the oven was not so much cookies as an amorphous blob of batter and semi-heated chocolate. I ate it with a spoon.
In all fairness, it tasted fine. Indeed, MOS may well have invented cookie-dough as a tasty treat in and of itself. And so, while others may brag of their mothers culinary skills, I will always hold the fondest memories of my bowlful of cookie.
Happy Mother's Day, MOS.