Happy Birthday, Moma!

Well, it’s March 13 again.  Today would’ve been my Moma’s 73rd birthday.  Wasn’t she beautiful?

Moma & Me

Today was also supposed to be the birthday of BOTH my Ankle Biters.  Both of them were due on their Mamaw Cat’s birthday.  But they were also both very impatient and couldn’t wait that long to arrive.  And unfortunately, she didn’t live long enough to get to meet either of them. 

In honor of Moma’s birthday today, I’d like to share with you some of my most favorite foods she made.  And there were MANY!  OH SO MANY!  But we just have 24 hours worth of her birthday after all!  So we can’t make them all!

I loved her wild breakfast sandwiches.  She’d put together some of the most unbelievable combinations on sandwiches for breakfast.  She used to bring them to me at work on my breaks.  One of my favorites was a fried potato/Miracle Whip/bell pepper/VERY VERY thinly sliced tomato sandwich.  Oh my heavens!  And she made BLT’s, but she added her home-canned sweet pickles to them.  To this day, I can’t make a BLT without adding sweet pickles!

If I close my eyes, I can stand in her kitchen smell all the amazing things she grew in her garden cooking on the stove!  Fresh-from-the-garden white sweet corn, cut off the cob and “fried” in a cast iron skillet.  Fresh green beans we sat outside and broke simmering on the stove with onions, bacon grease and baby red potatoes she just dug from the garden.  Then she would take those wonderful potatoes and mash them up on the plate with a little salt, pepper and Miracle Whip.  Fresh-from-the-garden okra or squash dredged in a little meal and flour frying in another cast iron skillet.  And of course, cornbread in yet another cast iron skillet in the oven. 

And the relishes and pickles and homemade salsa and Ro-Tel she canned!  Unbelievable!  I loved all the magic that came from her huge garden! 

She made this melt-in-your-mouth roast with gravy that had little teeny bits of onion and chives in it!  And Red Velvet Cake smothered in Cream Cheese Icing that would make you cry, it was so good!  And Pecan Pie and Apple Pie and Lemon Meringue Pie!  Then there were her huge vats of soup!  Well, I could honestly go on and on.  But again, we just have 24 hours for her birthday. 

So my absolute most favorite thing Moma ever cooked was her Swiss Steak.  There’s some irony to that.  I’m not a huge fan of tomatoes as a general rule.  I just don’t love them like everybody else in my family.  Tomatoes were Moma’s most favorite food in the whole world.  She grew them in her garden every summer and then canned about 92 gazillion jars of them to last through the winter.  I can remember having to stand in the kitchen peeling tomatoes to put in the jars.  Oh, how I hated that.  The smell of them gagged me.  But Moma LOVED tomatoes…..fresh, canned, however she could get them.  She always wore a shirt to the garden with a breast pocket so she could carry her teeny salt shaker with her.  I’ve watched her pick a tomato, shine it on her shirt tail, give it a healthy dose of salt and eat it standing right there in the middle of the garden!  Now here’s where the irony really comes in.  My brother loves tomatoes too.  But of all the dishes Moma made, he just hates this one!  So it’s rather odd that I’m a “mater hater” for the most part, but this is my favorite dish and he adores tomatoes, but hates this dish.  So how’s that for craziness?

Moma always said she learned about Swiss Steak from her Aunt Kitty.  Aunt Kitty was my Moma’s daddy’s only sister.  Pa Jack had about 9 or 10 brothers and then finally the baby of the family was a girl.  Kitty was a fabulous cook!  She made my wedding cake when the Tall Skinny Man and I got married.  She taught my Moma about Swiss Steak. 

Moma grew up eating good old “country food.”  Beans and taters and cornbread.  She told me she thought Swiss Steak was so exotic when she first tried it.  And I imagine it probably was to her way back then! 

The thing is, it’s not exotic at all!  It’s so simple by today’s standards.  But 60 years ago or so, Moma thought this was “cutting edge” food!  LOL

So let’s make it, shall we? 

Cat’s Swiss Steak

*  4-6 cube steaks

*  2 28 oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained

*  2 large onions, cut into slivers

*  6-9 ribs celery, with leafy tops

*  garlic, salt and pepper to taste

Batter and fry cube steaks like country-fried steak.  Drain on paper towels.  Mix all other ingredients in a large Dutch oven.  Add steaks to tomatoes.  Simmer 2-3 hours on medium low heat.  Serve over hot cooked rice.

And that’s it!  So, so simple!  But SO, SO delicious!  I make it myself.  But somehow, it’s just not the same when the tomatoes come from a metal can I bought at Kroger.  As much love as I put into it, it doesn’t have those fresh tomatoes from the garden that Moma grew with love. 

I can never make Swiss Steak or eat it without thinking about Moma.  Well, I think about her a lot when I’m cooking because she loved to make good food and share it.  She’s one of the people I got my love for cooking and sharing good food from. 

Happy Birthday, Moma!  I love you and miss you every single day.  I hope all of Heaven is enjoying your magnificent meals!  Make ’em some Swiss Steak!  Then they’ll KNOW they’re in Heaven! 

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3 Responses

  1. Amy, You have strated my day, with tears in my eyes. What a sweet, sweet post, about your Moma. When I was a kid we always, always, had meals, never a sandwich, and believe this or not, I never had a potato chip until I was in high school… they were never in our house…EVER. Mom worked evenings, so Daddy cooked our evening meals. The ONLY time I can ever remember having a sandwich was a grilled cheese, that my Dad made. I took one bite and ask Daddy,”Can I have another one of these?” He told me, “If you eat that one, I will fix you another one.” It was so good! I really don’t remember having them again after that.

  2. What an awesome tribute to your Mom!!!

  3. YOU GUYS CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO UNDERSTAND THE GREATNESS OF THIS WOMAN! SHE WAS ONE OF THE MOST INFLUENCIAL (?) PEOPLE IN MY LIFE. I LOVED HER MORE THAN I COULD EVER PUT INTO WORDS. THE TWO OF US WOULD SIT AT THE BREAKFAST TABLE & EAT WHOLE QUARTS OF HER HOME-CANNED ‘MATERS WHILE AMY & HER STEP-DAD SAT & GAGGED. THOUGH SHE WASN’T BLOOD, SHE WAS MY MOMA, TOO & I MISS HER SOO MUCH. & I HATE THE LOOK IN AMY’S EYES WHEN SHE MISSES HER! THEY HAD THEIR MOMENTS BUT THEY WERE THE BEST OF FRIENDS. I WISH EVERYONE COULD HAVE THAT! ME, ESPECIALLY!
    I LOVE YOU, CAT! & MISS YOU EVERYDAY! YOU WOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR 2 LITTLE ‘UNS!!!

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