Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mom Memories

I made my mom's carrot casserole for dinner last night. I came close to crying. It's seldom that missing my mom feels so direct. And it almost always surprises me. Like when my youngest (step)brother took pictures of his precious family at my mom's gravestone in Indiana. This sweet brother and his wife, neither of whom ever met my mom, paying tribute to her with their babies, telling them that this is where "Grandma Janet" is buried. And like when I opened a box of sheet music, found "Don't Rain on My Parade" from "Funny Girl," started to sing it to my kids, and got all choked, because that is a Mom Song. Like seeing my sweet dad, still handsome in his sixties, and realizing that the last time he saw my mom, twenty years ago this month, she was not much older than I am now.

So I made the carrot casserole.

It was so pretty, and it smelled so... right. You know how smells will take you right back to a time and place? Yes. That. And it reminded me of so many things I loved about my mom -- her ways in the kitchen, how she always tasted right off the mixing spoon, and how hot breakfast was non-negotiable (even if it was apple crisp, because really, how different is that from apple-cinnamon oatmeal?), and how sugar cereal was for camping trips. My mom had a spagetti sauce that would bring kids from town. I'm not kidding. My friends would fill up cups with it and eat it with spoons. And once, she burned pork chops. In the microwave.* But that carrot casserole. I loved that stuff.

Here's the recipe, if you're so inclined.
2 and 1/2 cups grated carrots
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons melted butter
2 cups cooked rice
1 Tablespoon grated onion**
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 and 1/2 cups grated cheese (Knowing how I grew up, this probably meant cheddar cheese, medium. But now that I've become a cheese snob, I made it half and half with Gruyere. Mmmm. Gruyere.)

Blanch carrots in 3/4 cup water for 5 minutes. Drain, and save the juice. Combine carrots with eggs, butter, rice, salt, onions and cheese(s). Mix it up.*** Press into a greased 8x8 pan, place that pan into a 9x13 pan with a cup or two of hot water in it. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Next, you make a white sauce, using the carrot juice for half the liquid. Like so: Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a heavy sauce pan. Stir in 4 Tablespoons of flour and stir over medium-high heat for a minute. Salt and pepper to taste. Then add carrot juice and about 3/4 cup of milk, whisking constantly until the sauce has thickened. Don't let it boil. Then you add a cup or 2 of really good-quality frozen peas. If you don't know the difference between good peas and the other kind, give me a call. We'll talk.

Serve casserole with cream sauce over the top. See if it makes you miss my mom, too.

*This may be where I get my aversion to microwave cooking.
**But why stop at 1? I used 2.
***My Kid 3 said at this point, "It looks just like chopped candy corns!"


  1. I have these moments often. Often it's when I randomly run across something with my parents' handwriting on it. I have no idea why that takes me back so fast, but it does.

  2. If you're mom was anything like you, I'm certain I'd miss her too. *hugs*

  3. So sweet and poignant...I haven't lost my mum but two years ago I nearly did. And even those short months when she was in the hospital, on the brink, everything mentally connected with her just became so much sharper and more intense. Smells, songs...

    I can't wait to try that recipe...

  4. Oh, can't wait to try this. I loved reading this post about your mom, I can only imagine what an incredible woman she is because of the most remarkable daughter she raised, you really are "beyond words" Becca. Good luck with everything this weekend!!!

  5. I do remember sampling your mom's cooking on occassion but never had the carrot casserole (or the spaghetti sauce - recipe please?). I will for sure try this. It's hard to believe how much time has passed - even I remember it like it was yesterday. But what a tribute to your mom you are - she has to be so proud. Love you!


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