I have witnessed the factory that is The Mom’s house many times. But I am not an active participant in the factory, generally speaking. Mostly because I don’t eat much in the way of food, and the food that I do eat is the sort that I’m best placed to prepare anyhow. The Mom, bless her, hasn’t the patience to cook sushi rice for me and since The Other Two have invaded, I fear the stash of fluffy white basmati rice she keeps for me has been found, and found lacking, and was quickly dispatched to the circular file (i.e. the bin).
I know she goes out of her way to stock up on foods that will not aggravate my delicate digestion and when I arrive there is my usual box of Big Yellow Cherrios, a fresh package of Saltines, and, if I’m lucky or particularly unwell before I even get to Heathrow, a six-pack of tiny cans of ginger ale. Throw in a few chicken breasts that that’s enough food to sustain me for months. There is a good reason I am this small.
Anyhow, when I was in residence and the only child at hers and also the only child at hers who was treading the line between being admitted to hospital and wilfully taunting death, she broadened the repertoire in her kitchen cum factory.
For reasons that are in no way clear to anyone, when I’m desperately ill, I can stomach things like pho. This life-giving and life-saving soup, Vietnamese in origin, is generally a staple of my diet anywhere I live. Finding a place where I can get this soup is also one of the first things I do when rocking up to a new town. When I first went flat-hunting in London the bus drove past a row of Vietnamese restaurants and I knew I had found the right neighbourhood.
Anyhow, one can purchase a bowl of pho in The Mom’s town but she cannot abide going out in the car every day and spending nearly a tenner on soup that could easily be made at home. One day she asked me what I thought I might be able to eat.
“Pho,” I shouted from the depths of the bathroom.
“Pho!” I shouted again.
“What in the hell is that?”
“Soup, from the Vietnamese.”
“You want to eat take out?”
“I don’t care if it’s take out or made in, but that’s what The Monster(my Crohn’s) and I think might be tolerable.”
“It’s a blizzard. And I can’t order that on my own. And you can’t go out in the car.”
“Ask L’il Sis to fix it.”
“She’s at work.”
“Neither is she, but that’s where she is and I don’t think an emergency run to the Vietnamese is going to go down well with her bat shit crazy boss.”
“Is there a Plan B? Chicken soup?”
“I cannot eat one more bowl of that broth.”
“I thought you liked it!” The Mom would say, in her best ‘I am hurt’ tone.
“I did. 68 days ago when I had the first bowl.”
“I take your point.”
Later, when I could take a break from my bathroom business, I wobbled down to the kitchen and found a cookbook one of my besties had given me years ago. It was a beautifully illustrated cookbook celebrating all that is delicious about south east Asia. I opened it to the relevant page and stabbed at the picture.
“Look,” I told The Mom. “Pho.”
“Huh,” she said squinting. I passed her her glasses. “Ah, yes, I see. Ox tail? Really? You like this?”
She sighed heavily, took the book and put on her winter gear. “I’ll go to the market and see what can be done. I don’t think they’re going to have ox tail though. And what about the spices?”
“I have a stash.”
I nodded. “In the bit of the cupboard where you don’t look.”
A few hours later she came back well and truly pleased with herself. Having had a chat to the Mennonite butcher they had decided that beef knuckles would get the job done. Poochie, who was still alive and able to know a good thing when she saw it, took an immediate like to the project.
The Mom put the knuckles in and turned up the heat to boil. Whereupon I had to run upstairs as when I’m ill I can’t even tolerate the smell of food cooking.
Sometime in the afternoon – at that point, we had given up on traditional dining times and I just ate as and when – she dragged me out of bed and down to the table. She had given me a bowl of pho broth with extra hot peppers (I don’t understand it either but they make me feel better) and had put a similar bowl, minus the chills, on a table mat on the floor next to my spot. For Poochie, obviously.
I looked at the dog and the bowl and The Mom and took a slurp. “Excellent,” I said. Which is high praise from me on a good day and on a bad day it’s even better.
Poochie also, for the record, quite liked the pho.
My point is, that regardless of what The Mom’s factory produces, it’s always working. As is The Mom.