On Homecooking

My mother makes the best comfort food. I’ve got 4 brothers spread out over the planet, so it’s getting increasingly rare for us to all get together and have a “family meal”. But when it does happen; my Mom swings into action, drawing upon 35 years of experience as a mother to bring out a whole assortment of dishes to create our perfect family meal. The smorgasbord of meat, vegetable and starches she puts together takes a full day to make; but is devoured in less than an hour. Koshary, Chicken Pane, Lasagna, Stuffed Potatoes, Okra Stew (Bamia), Macaroni with Béchamel Casserole, Smoked Kofta in Red sauce with White Rice, Gratinated Potato Casserole, Goulash (minced beef and vegetables layered under filo pastry), Molokheyya with Red Sauce and a huge bowl of Garden Salad. Neither the table nor our stomachs have room for dessert.

The menu is hugely diverse, and experience has taught my Mom how to be efficient: the Beef is minced all at once, seasoned with the same spices, and used for the lasagna sauce, stuffed potatoes, Macaroni with Béchamel Casserole and the Goulash. The Red tomato sauce made for the Kofta is the same red sauce used for the Koshary and the Molokheyya. The 3 types of pasta –Lasagna, Penne and short macaroni – are all prepared in quick succession using the same pot of boiling water. All the components are prepared together according to their method; the frying is done once and everything that needs to go into the oven will go in at the same time.

That’s a lot of food, and takes a lot of time to make. And I’m always fascinated by how she keeps the kitchen so clean throughout. When I cook, I need a specialized dishwasher on call the whole time I’m in the kitchen. Everything else I can handle.

The homemade feast is definitely my favorite meal of all time; but it has less to do with the food on offer than the actual gathering of loved ones. The table, covered end to end with our favorite childhood dishes, almost feels like a long lost member of the family. Every bite is not salty or spicy; they are mini time capsules taking me back 10, 15 or 20 years to when I thought that the Blue Whale was the best animal on earth because it was so big. Between heaping spoonfuls of food and sips of Pepsi, we share our latest stories, and recount old ones. Sometimes we’ll even find out something new about an old mystery. We never eat in silence. We don’t leave the table unless all the food is eaten, and even then, we find ourselves lounging in our dining chairs clutching our enormous bellies. Smiles all around.

To try and critique a meal like that is pointless. I would not remark upon the seasonality of the ingredients because a family meal is always in season. I couldn’t tell you if the chicken pane was overcooked or not because, frankly, I don’t care. Nostalgia is a big part of this meal, and I like the rose-tinted glasses. That is why I’ve been trying to learn my mother’s recipe for these things. They are all deceptively simple, and it never turns out quite the way my Mom makes it. The taste is good, but not quite “there”. And not through lack of seasoning, mind you.

It’s because my Mom did not cook it. That’s the missing ingredient, the rarest ingredient of all. Non-replenishable, unpurchaseable, irreplaceable.

Happy Mother’s Day.

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About Wesam E Masoud
Chef Patron of @chefsmarketmasr, Host of @CBCSofra's #matbakh101. I have one degree in Medicine & 3rd degree burns from cooking.

6 Responses to On Homecooking

  1. reader says:

    there was not the smallest need to capitalize the names of any of these dishes. also, it would be easier to take your views seriously if the title did not contain “cuz”.

    • Wesam Masoud says:

      The virtues of capitalization are clearly lost upon you, since you haven’t even used a capital letter to begin your sentences. For that reason, and because you haven’t even provided a real name or email address,I cannot take your comment seriously and will instead let it stand as a testament to your ignorance and petty pedantry.

    • Silverfoot says:

      Buzz off “Reader”….what do you know!
      Really nicely written Wesos, loved it.

  2. Marwa Hamdy says:

    Hi,
    Your mom was my science teacher for many years at school, and she gave us cooking lessons in our activities classes as well – so basically, we all loved her and her cooking :)). For the life of me I cannot forget how good her lasagna and chicken cacciatore were! I recall that everything we made with your mom was great, but for some reason those two dishes in particular have been glued in my memory for almost 20 years now. Would be great if you could post a couple of her recipes here, and give her my love and best wishes for a life-time of happiness and health – Happy Mother’s day to her 🙂

  3. Mister Hanky the Christmas Poo says:

    Well said, sir. I salute you. And condemn you for making me hungry! Jusqu’à ce que nous nous reverrons, mon frere.

  4. Hungry cuz I read this says:

    Very sweet post. 🙂

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