My Jordan has never been much of a cook. She wasn’t interested. Oh, she can make a quesadilla or buttered noodles for Jacob’s supper, and on occasion she has made our family favorite, Doris’ casserole. But, especially since quarantine, she’s been content to leave the cooking to Christian and me, because we both enjoy it.
I’ve posted before about the mother-daughter relationship we share when planning meals. Really, when making out the grocery list, which we divide between two stores—Albertson’s, where she goes, masked and gloved, and Central Market, where we do curbside pick-up. Grocery list night is when we decide the meals we’ll have. And we decide it by who cooks what—Christian, who loves Asian experiments, can cook fried rice this night, and mom can cook tater tot casserole, which I read is a Midwestern staple.
Recently Jordan has made said tater tot casserole, German potato salad (Christian’s favorite), and traditional American potato salad. Several years ago she called to ask me what to do with leftover meatballs, and I suggested a white sauce. “How do you do that?” When I told her, she said, “Too much trouble. I’ll open a jar of spaghetti sauce. Now she’s made white sauce twice—she just doesn’t know it.
The night she made German potato salad, she cooked the bacon in tiny pieces, fished them out, and was ready for the next step. I had told her flour and vinegar/water, so she started to pour the vinegar/water into the pan. I yelled, I admit it, so she’d stop, and she said, “Please don’t yell at me. I’m trying to learn.” She was right of course, and I apologized, but I saw a choice between throwing out ingredients or having a lumpy sauce. My yell was instinctive, but it was enough to stop her. She stirred in the flour, then by small bits the vinegar/water, and worried that the sauce was too thin, but it was just fine for coating potatoes.
Tater tot salad was a bit more complicated—two layers each of ground meat cooked with onion, and two layers of what is called a soup, though I’d call it a sauce. Then the whole thing is topped with tater tots and grated cheese. Jordan sailed through it, making a white sauce with milk. The only sticking point came when the recipe called for undiluted beef base. We read again and put it in. The final result was really good.
I asked Jordan the other night if she knew how to make a white sauce, and she said no. “But you’ve just done it,” I said. She caught on and said, “Bacon grease.” So I gave my lecture about technique vs. ingredient. Any grease, flour, any liquid. Home run.
Tonight, Christian is grilling burgers, and Jordan has made her first
mayonnaise/mustard potato salad. When she asked how to do it, I, who have made various kinds for over sixty years, told her, using such amounts as a dab of mustard. “I have to see it in writing,” she said and found a recipe. Just now, she gave me a taste, saying she knew it needed a lot more. “Nope,” I said. “It’s perfect.” “More salt?” she asked and I said no.
During all this, I am kind of looking over her shoulder—and washing dishes as she finishes with them. I was telling my friend Jean about Jordan’s cooking, and she said, “And she’s learning in such a difficult kitchen.” I agreed if she can cook in my tiny kitchen, with a hot plate and a toaster oven, she can cook anywhere.