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House of Miracles

(by Trina Tjersland)

The modern culinary conveniences for housewives of the ‘60s and ‘70s spoke to my mother in a loud, clear voice. Why spend long hours in a hot kitchen toiling over a dinner made from scratch when the grocery store is full of fun and easy shortcuts? We ate a lot of Green Giant boil-in-the-bag broccoli in cheese sauce, instant mashed potatoes, and Mrs. Paul’s Fish Sticks, with their packet of “miracle sauce"—basically finely diced pickles that my mother sometimes tried to transform into tartar sauce with a little Miracle Whip.

We were raised on Miracle Whip, which my mother considered the same as mayonnaise. It’s not. I’d go to a friend’s house for lunch, and the mom would make us tuna fish sandwiches mixed with mayonnaise. But when I tried making tuna salad at home, it tasted too sweet. This mystery remained well into my teens when I noticed the label on the jar at a friend’s: Hellman’s. But until the she died, my mother was committed to the whip of miracles.

I want to paint the picture of my mother’s presentation of her fish stick dinner. We owned a lot of those homemade potholders made of multicolored loops woven on small looms by my siblings and me. My mother would scatter a few of them, sauce-stained and scorch-m