Like my mom, I’m perpetually late for most everything—parties, lacrosse games, the dentist, getting my kids to school, and mass. Especially mass. One of my most vivid memories of childhood is following my mom up the center aisle of church 10 minutes after mass had begun. My sisters and I were mortified with this weekly ritual—just as my kids are today.
My mom is a crusty gal, and getting crustier each day. She was always fiercely independent. When we were young, she bucked the ladies’ group in the neighborhood, got us fired from the orthodontist, argued with the sales girls at McAlpins, and for years never let me sleep over at friends (a point of much consternation and angst every weekend).
When I was in high school, she went back to work at a high-end clothes store called Panache. As a fashion major in college, she never could abide cheap clothes. She loved her job, much more than being at home, I think. That was her stage. But throughout my childhood, she was the accountant, disciplinarian, teacher, cook, doctor and handy man for the family. (Dad was on the car lot or golf course and had little inclination towards household matters.) She sent us to private Catholic schools and eked out annual vacations on a shoestring because she was “determined her girls were going to see the world.” She managed to send us all to college. Now that I’m a parent, I don’t know how she did it.
Growing up with all girls (five of us) and no boys, we never knew there was anything we couldn’t do. We weren’t compared to boys, held to different standards or treated as anything but smart, independent people. We cut the grass, fixed cars, smoked cigarettes, played baseball and golfed. We drank too much and drove too fast. It was assumed we were going to college (getting married was never discussed).
Thank you, Mom, for everything you did for us, but especially for being the strong, smart, independent woman you are. And…for hating to cook, which started me on my culinary path in life.
This Mother’s Day, I’m making my moms “chicken nuggets”—a dish we loved long before McDonald’s made it a household name. But unlike fast food nuggets, these are made from chicken breasts that have been dipped in melted butter and dredged in breadcrumbs with parmesan (from the can of course–it was the 70’s). I’ll be making them with real Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Panko breadcrumbs, because I am, after all, my mother’s daughter and fiercely independent.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I love you.
Joan’s Chicken Nuggets
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 stick melted butter
3 cups dry breadcrumbs (I prefer Panko)
2/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 teaspoon each dried thyme and basil
1. Preheat oven to 375F.
2. Combine breadcrumbs, cheese and herbs. Dip chicken breasts in melted butter. Dredge in breadcrumb mixture. Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until chicken is browned and done. Serves 6.