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A Signature Dish

(by Cathy Alter)

That I have no natural instincts toward cooking is my mother's fault. When asked to submit a recipe to the PTA cookbook, she sent me to first grade with instructions for making a Fluffernutter sandwich. "If God had wanted me to cook," she once proclaimed while opening a 12-piece bucket from the Colonel, "I would have been born with Teflon hands."

She was a working mother, the only one among the mothers of my friends who worked outside of their split-level homes. As soon as my brother and I were out of diapers, she opened a woman's fashion boutique in our sleepy Connecticut suburb. In the land of Peck ‘n Peck and Pappagallo shoes (both retail bastions to preppy style and sensible shoes), Artichoke, Inc. stood as a beacon to the hip, independent women of our town. There were racks of denim maxi skirts, obscure French labels, and Native American jewelry hanging on a wall made of cork. My mother, a six-foot-tall beauty with black hair and red lips, employed her most s