I am fortunate to be the daughter of a dyed-in-the-wool gutsy New Englander who knew how to swing and sway with Sammy Kaye while whipping up a stick-to-your-ribs meal that sometimes looked better than it tasted. I think of her as the Estée Lauder of the kitchen: Presentation was everything, beginning with the cook.
My Bostonian mother was raised during the Great Depression, when food and music were life-affirming sources of optimism. She was a bargain hunter with a flair for creativity that I inherited. She encouraged me to write descriptive menus of our family meals and to make pretty name tags for traditional holiday dinners, whether corned beef and cabbage for St. Patrick’s Day or salmon and creamed peas for Fourth of July (something I now do with my grandchildren).
The marketplace in Boston’s North End was her destination on a regular basis. Two pounds of ground beef became six meals: meatloaf, chop suey, meatballs, goulash, hamburgers, and stuffed peppers. A Sunday dinner of roast chicken became croquettes shaped like little pyramids and drizzled with a buttery cream sauce. Being of trickled-down French descent, she believed that butter makes everything better. Even the traditional Boston baked bean sandwich included butter.
Good manners were required—she believed in the adage that it doesn’t cost anything to be nice (a trait I instilled in my children). She was a little bit Hollywood and enjoyed a movie laced with romance (accompanied, of course, by buttered popcorn). The joy of movies with happy endings is something else I’ve inherited, and incorporate into my own scripts.
While I have some of her qualities, I do not think I will leave the same legacy of food memories, although when my kids are sick, they always ask for my chicken soup. But no one is standing in line for the bean sandwich except me.
Sandra Lee Bolton is a screenwriter who can be found at www.screenwriterinmotion.com and at Backstage.
Simple Leftover Chicken Soup
2 qts. chicken broth
6 carrots, sliced
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 T. chopped basil
1 T. chopped parsley
roast chicken, skinned and shredded
Bring broth to a boil.
Add vegetables and herbs, and cooking until carrots are tender.
Stir in chicken.
Boston Baked Bean Sandwich
2 slices white bread
cold B&M baked beans in molasses
Spread the butter on both slices of bread.
Scoop beans on one slice.
Top with remaining slice, buttered side down.