Last Sunday I took you down memory lane to my mother’s story and this week it’s only fair that I tell you about my lovely mother-in-law, Jeanette. She is responsible for my wonderful husband’s appearance in the world and as we celebrated his birthday this past weekend, of course she comes to mind. Incidentally, he is the middle child in a line of seven. (I am the middle of 3 — don’t middles always end up together?!)
My first impression of Jeanette was through her son’s eyes. He talked a lot about what an amazing cook his mother was/is and how she served delicious meals to their table every single night for his crowd of a family. And dessert. Every night. Baked. Homemade. Desserts are a big thing with Michiganians, I’ve decided. So I couldn’t wait to meet her and she was everything he’d described her to be: sweet, quiet, welcoming and a Fantastic cook. Her menus became the model for what I served our young family over the years. If I were to put her dinner philosophy to paper, I believe the list below summarizes it well.
1. The table must be dressed with a freshly pressed tablecloth.
2. Grace will be said before the meal commences, always by Pop, and ending with his signature “We pray for the gifts of wisdom, love, courage and perseverance.”
3. Every meal must have a tossed green salad. With no regard for extra dishes to wash, Jeanette happily adds salad bowls or plates to every table.
4. The main course will be hearty, delicious and hot. And plentiful. When you are feeding a crowd of 9, be sure to have enough for everyone to eat and be satiated.
5. There must be at least one side dish, either a vegetable or a starch but preferably both. See crowd comment above.
6. Milk is the beverage of choice to accompany dinner, especially during the week. Wine is a close second.
7. THERE WILL BE DESSERT. Sometimes, if everyone is too full from the delicious dinner, dessert is moved to the time slot after dishes are done. The sweet treats range from homemade Angel Food Cake topped with macerated strawberries and freshly whipped, sweetened cream to tart Rhubarb Pie (btw, I had never tasted home-whipped cream before her’s and it changed my life) Of course, there are always a few of her famous cookies on a plate and plenty of ice cream. On the weekends when we dined with them several evenings in a row, she would bake something fresh each day, even if the previous evening’s dessert had not been completely consumed. Another rule: Jeanette takes the first bite. Pop is the enforcer of this rule. Do not break it.
I think it is safe to say that Jeanette manifested love for her family with her work in the kitchen. Oh, and through her ironing…she is a master in the laundry room but I’ll save that for another blog.;) Check out the Menu for the next few days and give your mother-in-law a big hug; since mine is arriving midweek, I will do the same! -R