Most Sundays since I moved out of my childhood home, I go over for family dinner.
My mom usually cooks the entire meal — from entree to dessert — and we bring over side dishes like poke, butter rolls or wine.
Sometimes I’ll go over and help my mom prepare for dinner. That was the case last night.
Earlier that day, she had made English muffins from scratch. (Yes, for fun.) And with that, we were going to have eggs Benedict for dinner, sometimes my entire family — surprisingly — had never had before.
The goal was to make Hollandaise sauce, one of the five so-called mother sauces of classic cuisine. (The others are béchamel, velouté, espagnole and classic tomato.) I decided I wanted to master these sauces, so we started with Hollandaise.
There’s nothing overly difficult about making Hollandaise sauce. It calls for egg yolks, butter, cayenne pepper, salt and lemon juice. The eggs have to be heated using a double boiler and the butter, which we melted, was then slowly added to the beaten yolks. The trick is to keep stirring and not to let the sauce separate. It was simple enough. Just stir — and don’t stop.
It was an interesting experience last night, as I stood over the double boiler and continuously whisked the egg yolks. My brother was helping, adding lemon juice and a dash of cayenne pepper, and I caught myself saying to him the things my mom would say to me. “Add a little salt at a time. You can always add salt later.” Or “You can use paprika on the top, too. It’s just a smell.”
I’m turning into my mom.
Which isn’t a bad thing. My mom is kind, practical, good-natured, long-suffering and a master in the kitchen. She would work a full-time job, come home and manage to prepare a full-on dinner — sometimes with freshly baked bread or pasta she had made earlier that week — and dessert. Every night. She’s like a culinary super hero.
I wondered, on the long drive home, whether it’s inevitable we become versions of our parents. We say what they say, do what they do, act how they act. Is this coded in our genes or something we just learn by osmosis, by spending a lot of time with them during our formidable — and impressionable — years?
I always thought I had the worst traits of my parents. The quick temper, the tendency to overeat, the rigid way I can sometimes view the world, the high standards for myself, the self-depracation, the inability to say no and eat a lot of dairy products at once, the penchant for to-do lists and color-coded calendars.
But in my, ahem, later years, I’m starting to realize that I can cultivate the better traits they have, the ones that might be hard-coded in DNA. I can be practical like my mom, ideal like my dad — and enjoy every morsel of food like both of them.
It’s like with anything, I supposed. You can admire people for their character and set of values — and you can choose to adopt those, too. I have a friend who is savvy about setting boundaries (and saying no) and another who’s organized and structured. I don’t share DNA with them, but I can certainly learn a thing or two.
So turning in my parents may be such a bad thing.
Unless I start dressing like them. Then stop me immediately.
Sorry for the delay in blogging. I had some technical difficulties with the site. All fixed now, though! Thanks for your patience!