This is what you’re made of, my mother says;
green beans, next to Friday night’s supper,
like poplars edging wheat,
white egg, tapped and peeled
by small hands, fingers slipped
between membrane and albumen,
gold smoked cod, pink horizons
on a lake of flame,
Just like our flag, she says,
whipping flaked hands across her pinny.
I am six and know nothing of flags.
While looking for my mother's Fish Bake recipe in her kitchen diary, I came across a handwritten list: “Things Audrey HATES for Dinner,” followed by “Things she LIKES” and a list of what my sister disliked. (Almost the mirror image of mine. My poor mother!)
(Mam, me, and my daughter Grace)
She was a stay-at-home mum and kept her house so organized. She had a place for everything. I attempt that, but with kids and work and everything else, I struggle. I do try to emulate some of her organization, such as having a stock of greeting cards and birthday gifts for children of all ages. I have inherited her love of pretty wrapping paper and embellishments. She could wrap a gift like a pro. When I was little, she would tie a ribbon and ask me to place my finger on the knot so she could make the bow nice and tightly. I ask my kids to do that now. I imagine one day, when I'm gone, they will ask their own children to place a small finger on a knotted ribbon, and that action will be the legacy of my mother, and hers, and right back up the line.
Audrey Molloy is an Irish poet based in Sydney, Australia. Her poetry has been widely published, most recently in The North, Magma, The Moth, The Irish Times, Southword, and The Tangerine. She received the Hennessy Award for Emerging Poetry in 2019 and is working towards her debut collection.
Mam's Smoky Fish Bake
3 T. butter
4 small leeks, sliced and blanched
1 package Knorr thick country vegetable soup*
14 oz. smoked cod or haddock fillets, cut into chunks
4 hard-boiled eggs, halved
1 c. chopped parsley
Heat butter in a saucepan.
Add leeks and sauté gently for 5 minutes until softened.
Prepare soup according to package directions*, add to saucepan, and bring to a simmer.
Add smoked haddock and 1/2 c. parsley.
Simmer until fish is cooked (about 5 minutes).
Ladle into 4 round terracotta dishes.
Add the hard-boiled eggs.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake for 20 minutes until bubbling.
Sprinkle with remaining parsley.
Serve with mashed potato and greens.
*If you don't have access to Knorr soup, you can replace with 3 c. white sauce made of fish stock, roux, milk, and cream (with some turmeric or saffron added for a beautiful golden color). Add 1/2 c. frozen peas, 1 carrot finely chopped, and 8 oz. can of corn at the same time as the leeks.