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April 06, 2016

Supper Parties and Family Recipes

I like to recycle food, and now everyone knows about it. I like to use up everything in the fridge, just like my mother, who was into recycling, composting, reducing, and reusing before they were cool. She didn’t like to cook, and she didn’t feel a need to give in to the pressure to be a perfect, enthusiastic housewife. That was never part of her plan. She and my dad fed us healthy food, and got on with their lives. It was a subtle, but clear message, and I appreciate it to this day.

I’ve recycled a lot of her recipes, in a few cases making them my own. (Mom? I loved you and your chicken Divan, but it’s much cheaper to skip the canned soup and make a DIY version with milk, flour, butter, and a little seasoning.) Though I love to cook, I’ve made great use of her recipes, because they’re easy to prepare, reasonably hearty and healthy, and they can feed a crowd on a budget.

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Nana’s recipe, handwritten by Mom

My parents fed four children, while we only have to feed three. But I love a supper party, and it’s rare that we don’t have at least one non-nuclear family member at the table. I don’t get out much these days, but I like people, and an easy weeknight supper is a nice way to see my favorites. (My favorite people respond well to an offer of free food, because they’re practical, and they can handle a last minute invitation, because they’re chill.)

A supper party, by the way, is different from a dinner party. Dinner parties are well-planned, the dishes match (or stylishly don’t match), and the napkins are ironed (or stylishly rumpled). A supper party is a gathering of people who are like family, at least in as much as they like you, whether or not the meal is fancy. Or they pretend to like you, in as much as they’ll sit around your table at the end of the day and enjoy a meal.

My mother’s spaghetti sauce, which is really her mother’s, is always a hit with my family, real and imagined. I posted the recipe on my original blog, now defunct, that I miss to this day, but life gets busy and, as the Rolling Stones explained so clearly, you can’t always get what you want. But! If you try sometime, you just might find, you get what you need. And comfort food, like Mom’s spaghetti, no matter how inauthentic, is sometimes exactly what you need. Or exactly what I need. Or what we all need. I made it last night with a twist: I browned the meat the night before, and threw the whole thing in the slow cooker in the morning, allowing it to cook for ten hours on low. Guess what. It tasted the same!

And speaking of that meat, in later years, my mom replaced the ground beef with ground turkey, because it was healthier. I’ve used ground turkey, and I’ve even substituted soy crumbles when we were on a vegetarian kick. You know what I’ve never tried? Ground pork. Pretty sure that needs to happen.

What family recipes do you recycle and reuse? Do you tweak them a little bit or stay true to the original?

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