Friday, June 19, 2009

My Favorite Meal

I grew up in the South - in Alabama and Georgia and my mom was from Elba, Alabama which is a tiny little town down towards the very Southernmost point of Alabama.

So, we grew up eating very traditional Southern meals. My mom was also a stay at home mom - who would have dinner on the table by no later than 5 pm...about the time Dad walked in the door from work.

I ate lots of greens - collards, mustards, turnips - all with vinegar and loved them all. We had black eye peas and cornbread - A LOT!

There were other regulars on the menu, but most things involved at least one Southern side dish.

The only two meals I recall that were different were spaghetti and Taco Night. My mom made the Kraft spaghetti from the box, complete with the weird runny sauce that came in the box. I guess she just didn't feel comfortable getting too outside her "cooking zone". But, as a child, I remember it fondly and even really liked it. Today, perhaps my tastebuds would rebel - especially since I'm used to my own homemade meatballs with spaghetti these days.

As kids, we might get browned ground beef added to the "sauce".

But, that is beside the point. What I truly loved was Taco Night. This was a dinner where we could all pick our toppings of choice and how much of whatever we wanted.

It was probably the most exotic meal that ever graced our Southern table.

Mom used the Old El Paso taco dinner kit, which is what I use to this very day. Only my family likes both the hard and soft taco shells so I buy the kit that has both in it. Mom only did the hard shells (fine by me - still my favorite!).

I made tacos for dinner on Thursday night and remembered how excited I was as a child on nights when we had a special treat, like tacos.

As we got older and moved around the United States, we became more adventurous in our eating and my parents both came to really love Mexican, Japanese and Chinese foods. My dad never could take the Indian food, though. LOL. So, I could never get a free lunch from him from Sitar of India (a local restaurant here). But, any of the others, I just had to give the mere suggestion and he was there!

It's funny and I wonder what my children will look back on and have fond memories about my dinners.

So far, the whole family seems to most enjoy my Beef n Broccoli dish that I just started making not too long ago and they also like my spaghetti.

I guess that's okay, but taco night will always hold a special place in my heart.

What was your special meal growing up, or even now?


  1. Wow. I guess my mom's baked steak is still a favorite.

    I had Sitar for dinner last night!

  2. Tacos were a hit growing up in my house, too - with 5 kids, the dish seemed to actually please everyone (hard to do, as I recall...). I really liked my mom's meatloaf and also her curried chicken. I swear I ate baked potatoes at least twice a week, though (don't eat them much now!)

  3. We have a long standing argument in my family about the proper building of a taco. Here's my stance of the proper order of ingredients:

    Seasoned ground beef
    sharp cheddar cheese

    I know, personally, some Philistines who insist the cheese should go on top of the warm meat so it gets all melty. That's just wrong.


  4. Chops and three veg. funnily enough.
    Baked custards for dessert. :D

  5. The Old El Paso taco's are exactly what my mom would make. In fact, aside from that and Taco Bell, I had no idea there was any other kind. And then I met my wife.

    Here in San Antonio, I went to my first real hole in the wall Mexican place. My wife asked me what I wanted to try and I said I'd get a few tacos.

    "What kind?" she asked.

    "The taco kind." was my response.

    I genuinely had no idea that it was the equivalent of walking into a deli and saying, "I'd like a sandwich."

    Okay? "What kind of sandwich?"

    "You know, the sandwich kind."

    25 years - and I don't want to guess how many tens of pounds - later, I still remember my confusion on that first trip.

  6. OLP taco kit -- I think that's dinner tonight!

    Between Mom and Nana, I have so many favorites! Our chili is one, which is more akin to red beans and rice. To go with the chili, one must have spoonbread (which I made last night).

    Let's see: salt-rising bread. Cheese pudding (made with the aforementioned salt-rising bread). Stuffing, made with the aforementioned salt-rising bread.

    Roast beef and popovers/Yorkshire pudding.

    Boiled white beans, salt pork, corn bread, cold-sliced tomato, cucumber and onion.

    Oh my, I could go on ...

  7. Our favorite was always the Chef's pizza in a box. I think I might still like one now. Mom put nothing extra on it--just the can of sauce and the gritty cheese. Maybe I liked it most because we only had it when my dad was away.

    Did your meals have the same side dishes every single time? Ours did.

    I loved reading this post.

  8. My mom was an excellent southern cook. Everything had bacon grease in it, though. My favorites were either fried chicken and mashed potatoes with the best gravy in the world - or roast turkey and oyster dressing with all the trimmings.

    She and daddy were not adventurous at all, and wouldn't go to the one local Chinese restaurant we had in Chas. back then. She did once open a can of Chow Mein Chop Suey, which made me gag.

    We ate a lot of pinto beans and cornbread and her pot roast was to die for. I never learned to make any of it, except pintos and cornbread.....LOL

  9. I lvoe cornbread!

    Lasagna is my favorite meal.

    We also sometimes had the Kraft spaghetti from the box - I actually loved the seasoning in that sauce!

  10. Old El Paso is the king of Taco kits :)

  11. Blair - I do country fried steak, just like my mom. Love it!

    Gigi - My mom made good meatloaf too. We'd have leftovers - a cold slab on white bread with mayo. Yum!

    Connie - I'm a rebel: I do meat, salsa, then cheese (so it gets all melty!) :-)

    Natalie - We always had plenty of veggies, too, it seems.

    Dave - Having been to Mexico, I know what you mean! Still, I like the OEP tacos. :-)

    Janis - You had an adventurous family! :-)

    SugarCain - Oh! We had the Chef's pizza sometimes too and it was the same as yours. I do it sometimes here, but add real mozzarella cheese and pepperonis. It's still good, in a weird way.

    Kenju - I actually had to learn pintos from the Evil Twin. LOL.

    3C - I loved the seasonings too! I wonder if they still make that?

    Ron - It's good for leftovers too!

  12. My mother was the queen of making something out of nothing. Also being from the south, and growing up poor, she'd Streeeeetch her food into enough for everyone, or enough for several meals (like beans and corn bread and chicken and dumplings).

    The thing I remember most fondly, and I haven't had this since my mom died, was creamed tomatoes and bread. Canned tomatoes in cream sauce over white bread. She'd call me at work and say "come to lunch, I'll make your favorite tomatoes and bread". I can still see her sitting at the dining room table snapping green beans to cook with bacon and potatoes, not a little side dish but a giant vat for dinner.

    Ah...I wonder why I'm so fat? LOL! Miss ya mom!

  13. Hmmm.....I love Ham 'n Beans with WHITE cornbread (uh no....never that box stuff). 'New potatoes' in a white cream sauce, sliced homegrown tomatoes, turnips, black-eyed peas and fried chicken...oh geez..I just gained 5 pounds writing this ;)

  14. Tacos are still a big treat here. I wil dice up all the various ingredients and place in custard cups, and eveyone just "has at it!" I do have to say, I put the chees on the warm meat, because I like it to melt around everything. Now I'm hungry again!

  15. Taco Night was special, at least for me, in my house, too. Although we didn't use kits of any sort. Mom made her special taco meat (I've asked her for the recipe, she has no freaking clue), but I know she made it go further by adding grated potatoes and carrots (grated by me). Then we'd had dishes of grated cheese (again, by me - you'd never guess I had four siblings), diced tomatoes (yes, by me), and chopped lettuce.

    Way back when she'd fry the tortillas herself, until we found out that in Mexico (from our Mexican family) they eat non-hard tortillas, so then we'd just heat them up and cover them with a towel to keep them warm.

    It's weird, when I remember Taco Night, there are more people than just my family in my memory, but I can't remember exactly who...

  16. I disagree completely with Connie on the proper construction of a taco...

    Meat (although I don't eat it anymore, so refried beans)
    Cheese (to be melted)

  17. My favorite meal growing up was Kraft macaroni and cheese with hamburger in it. It was BEEF hamburger and one of the few times a week we got to eat something not made with deer meat. My Dad was a big hunter, still to this day, actually. We were much poorer back then and that deer meat was our protein on a regular basis.

    Oh but the blue-box Kraft and beef hamburger! Yummy!!!!

    My son's favorite night around here...Taco Night. Ortega in the blue box only. He's says it's the best thing I cook. Great, I'll be remembered for the boxed tacos.

  18. I had a single, working mom growing up, so we had a lot of hamburger helper, hot dogs, fast stuff. My favorite (and still is to this day, though) was when she'd have extra time and energy on her hands, and we'd get a big 'ol panful of lasagna.

    When I make it, I add ricotta and sometimes go for a straight veggie lasagna, but anyway its made it makes me remember being a kid, and all the kids for whom I cook go 'Yay!' when I say I'm making it.

  19. (K)arla - my mom cooked with lots of bacon grease too. I do for some things still. Yum.

    Efen - Yum!

    themom - That's the way I do it, too - put the diced up stuff in bowls and just let everyone go at it!

    Kathleen - I remember my mom grating the cheese (back before you could buy a bag already grated). :-)

    A. - My kids still love the mac n cheese (although I buy the store brand, I'm cheap like that). Boxed tacos rock! :-)

    Leighmo - If we had lasagna growing up, it was a frozen one. Again, mom didn't work outside of her cooking comfort zone, but I love doing lasagna!

  20. We had two things growing up...spaghetti (which I no longer eat due to a bad experience in 1996) and tacos. My mom also fried up some mean fish too...

    A special thing for the family now is my homemade biscuits with sausage and eggs. We put homemade maple syrup or my honey on the biscuits...hard to beat!

  21. My favorites growing up were spaghetti with meat sauce and chicken fried steak and mashed potatoes. These are still my two favorite meals.

    My boys love it when I make the spaghetti. I think that's their favorite thing that I cook.

  22. hmmm...great post btw! I loved my mom's baked ziti & anything fried she made. Of course, being Indian - she made the best homecooked Indian food - even now, I can't wait to go home to have her cooking....

  23. oh my ..this just makes me hungry for a taco in any order of progression!

  24. Oh, how I used to love to snack on that boxed Kraft Spag kit afterschool, when I was in high school and Mom had gone back to work so I had to fend for myself, then cook the family meal as I was first home and...

    I started learning how to cook when I was still so young that Mom had to put a kitchen chair in front of the stove so I could reach whatever I was cooking. I believe I did this out of need because, with Mom: If it was meat, you fried it. If it was vegetable you boiled, fried, or baked it. Pretty sure she only used two spices on anything: Salt and pepper.

    I still have a set of the old cookbooks just like she had where I discovered that if I just followed the directions, I could have flavor in my world. LOL.

    But, Mom's turkey and dressing rocked, and I use her recipe for that to this day.

  25. That was very filling post!
    I know what I'll be famous for in my kids memories.
    I'll be famous for being the
    and the fat-nazi.

    I think they mean it all affectionately.

  26. My mum went on random food kicks, so there quite an interesting list to chose from. We once ate quiche for a month...

    I loved going to visit my Gram Irish (who lived 2 streets over). I loved eating her version of tripe (breaded and fried, with a dash of pepper and a splash of vinegar). She's been gone for 12 years now; I haven't eaten tripe since she died.

  27. Hmmm...lots. Mostly I remember flicking peas and mashed potato up to the roof....gawd we got in trouble for that :)


  28. I loved this post so much! We had greens and vinegar all the time. I loved them. When I was pregnant with my twins, I craved them as dessert! And Sitar is my favorite Indian restaurant too:)

  29. My Nannie could truly cook, I loved almost everything she made! When I had my first child almost 33 yrs ago it was also my first encounter with hospital food-the child was beautiful, the food was obviously meant to kill rats or people. I refused to eat it. Back then they kept you in the hospital for at least 5 days and Nannie feared I would starve. So via my uncle, who was a PA, she smuggled a thermos of her delicious chili and a bag of oyster crackers to me. Not only did she save my life, but I then knew who loved me best. Ever since then I've equated chili with love :-) Hands down, Nannie's was the best chili!

  30. I love looking back at my childhood! My favorite meal my mom made for us was the pork chops and macaroni. It is a contraption of pork chops (with the bone), macaroni with a chili sauce. YUMMY!! :)

  31. Tuna Casserole... I remember it fondly growing up. I make it now and Chase LOVES it. It's an easy dish and you can have all the ingredients on hand... so it's a great 'in a pinch' meal! Love it!

  32. This one is toooo easy. Mom's Veal Parm and my Grandma Carmella's sauce. To this day she makes it every year for each of her kid's birthdays and has started for the grandkids. (You get to choose whichever meal you want from Grandma and I have the credit cards so I give little nudges in the veal direction).


  33. my dad made hotdog pancakes. and english muffin pizzas with katsup, american cheese and hotdogs...


    my sister makes amazing potroast and chicken livers!

    and my grandma made stuffed cabbage that NOBODY can replicate.

    and FWI: tacos rule!


  35. Oh gosh, well Tacos top the list, but right now? I'd have to say Scalloped Potatoes with Ham. So good. I make it all the time in the winter still. :)

  36. My favorite meal from childhood
    (besides shake n bake BBQ chicken)
    Is my Mom's Hhamburger gravy.

    She recently made it for me and laughed as we ate it because she revealed she was just "stretching her budget" with that meal.

    Funny how that is the one that I loved the most.

    .. about that bacon grease...
    My mom saved bacon grease and popped up the best flavored popcorn ever.
    (old school style - in a pan)

  37. I totally remember Taco Night....that was the best!

  38. My grandma was from the south and she always made the best food. My mother being Puerto Rican/Mexican made mostly tortilla's and such. Either way I grew loving it all. I will say that greens and black eyed peas were my favorite. mmmm but so was homemade tortilla's! Enchilada's and tamales! Tamales with raisins. Crap I'm hungry!