Turning into one or other of your parents sometimes sneaks up on you.
I was lining up ingredients in the kitchen recently, getting ready to bake, whilst my husband was hacking an onion to death on the other side of the room (I love him, but Jamie Oliver this man is not.)
"Don't let those onions get near my baking!" I warned - and clamped a hand over my mouth in horror:
Once again I realised that ...
... I Am Becoming My Mother.
See, my mother has an irrational fear of onions in the kitchen. Whenever one of her
"Don't let those onions get into my apple pie!" or "I'd better not get a taste of onion off my scones!", my mother shrieks, making wavy motions with her hands to disperse phantom onion juice that's somehow spraying all over the kitchen and into her sugar bowl. For years I suspected that she believed onions had a mind of their own: turn your back on the little blighters and they'd make a dash across the countertop - nay, across the kitchen - to inveigle their way into your fine baking.
Despite the alarming realisation that I have inherited my mother's Irrational Fear of Bulbs That Have Minds of Their Own, I am nonetheless glad that I have reached this realisation. It's only when you live with someone else that you realise that the way you do things isn't necessarily the only way to do things, however astonishing (or, quite frankly, unlikely) this may seem. I almost drove my in-laws crackers (and continue to perplex them on a weekly basis) because I did things Wrong (or Wrongly. As you wish.) On our first Easter Sunday breakfast together, I sat down with relish to a hard-boiled egg. I took up my knife and whacked the top off it with gusto - a nice, clean boiled egg execution. My in-laws were - and I do not exaggerate - horrified at this display of barbarism.
|Put. The. Spoon. Down.|
I looked around - my parents- and sister-in-law were delicately tapping their eggs, picking the shell off, piece by piece. A lot more head-shaking ensued.
"She's so strange," I could see them think. "She's doing it wrong!"
Not that I minded, because I was observing their egg pickery with disdain:
"You're all nuts!" I thought silently. "This is the way we do it in my house. This is the right way!"
Years ago one of my former teachers told me a story about a visit she paid to a friend's house. While she was there, her friend started to prepare dinner. She was making bacon and cabbage - a typical Irish dish. Normally, you boil a loin of bacon in a large pot and serve it with mashed potatoes and cabbage (I won't comment on the gastronomic value of this dish or I'll start a flame war among the Irish readers - there are Love It and Hate It camps). My teacher watched as her friend cut a hank off the meat and set it to boil in a separate little saucepan.
"Why are you doing that?" she asked.
Her friend was astonished. "Because that's the end of the loin," she said. "That's the best bit. You always cook it separately, it has the most wonderful flavour. Don't you do it this way?"
And my teacher had to break it to her gently that not only did she not do it that way, but as far as she knew, no one else prepared their bacon that way.
"That's weird!" said my teacher.
"That's bizarre!" said her friend. "Everyone should do it like this - it's the best part of the meat, honestly!"
A couple of weeks later, when they next spoke on the phone, her friend said,
"By the way - remember you were asking about the bacon? Well, I asked my mother why you cook bacon that way, and she said, 'Well, it's the best part of the loin! You cook it this way to preserve the flavour!' Which was fine - except that a couple of days later, my mum phoned my grandmother and happened to ask her why she prepared bacon in that way. And granny said, 'Because I never had a pot that was big enough to cook a full loin of bacon.' It seems you were right."
She was a bit upset. "But it's the best part of the meat! It tastes better when you cook it in the little saucepan!"
Back in 1951, Mrs Brennan solved the Inadequate Saucepan Dilemma by cutting her loin of bacon to fit the saucepan she had. Sixty years and two generations later, her female descendants continued to do the same because no one stopped to think about whether the way WE do it even makes sense.
I wonder how many of us are doing things like this, without being fully aware of it?