Now that the mess is cleaned up, I realize how strange it is for a guy on Mother’s Day to understand that all he needs is to “do something nice.” My own mother passed away several years ago, but it was clear that my wife’s own children weren’t going to do much for her on Mother’s Day, so I thought I’d bake her something chocolate.
My wife is easy that way: give her chocolate. But she’s awesome, both as a mother and as a person, so rather than just buy her some chocolate truffles (as I type this, I can imagine her saying “but you could have still got the truffles!”), I dug out my mother’s book of recipes.
My mother was an amazing cook. In particular, she was just an incredible baker. Before she passed, she made sure that each of her children had a copy of her recipes–the Sullivan Family recipes. The O’Sullivans left County Cork during the Blight, landed in the Midwest just before the Civil War, and like most of the incoming Irish got drafted straight into the Union Army. When the war was over, the surviving men mostly worked for the railroads, while the O’Sullivan women popped out kids and fed everyone. The most important thing my mother wanted to leave us were the recipes.
There are a lot of recipes in this book that I don’t remember eating as a child, but she probably understood that the effort of the “Pickled Peach Salad” would be wasted on her at-the-time ungrateful children. I don’t recall ever eating the “French Chocolate Pie,” but opening the book I immediately knew that this is what I needed to make for my wife. (There are a lot of recipes in there for things I’ve never heard of elsewhere, and my remembrances of them always involve all the aunts and great-aunts and other really old Irish ladies at the Springfield family gatherings. You have probably never had “Transparent Pie” or “Chess Cake,” which makes your life poorer than mine).
But now that the mess is all behind me, “French Chocolate Pie” makes me think that my mom was wickedly funny. How could she know that I’d marry a Frenchwoman who loved chocolate? Neither of those imperatives were part of my childhood. And how could anyone pass on a recipe that calls for “two squares of chocolate”? Did she think she was being funny? What exactly is a “square” of chocolate?
Somehow, I remembered the size of the squares mom used to use while I hung around in the kitchen and she baked, and the ones I now had in my hand looked smaller. Funny how you can picture the chocolate in your mother’s hands in the kitchen, 50 years on. So I doubled the squares I had, confident that too much chocolate would not be a problem in this pie, 50 years on.
Anyway, the French Chocolate Pie is done. Something nice. A man cannot ever, really, understand what it means to be a mother. But I’d just like to say now, as a son: ladies, gather your recipes.