Do This

Written By Scott Joseph On November 27, 2013

Maggies pieMy mom’s apple pie, as channeled through my sister, Maggie.

I’ve already had one Thanksgiving this year. Members of my family from Illinois and Arizona converged in Florida for an early holiday a couple of weeks ago. Previous schedules and other commitments this week prevented us from celebrating on the actual day. Which was fine — we’ve never been a family of traditionalists. Heck, we had our turkey (plus a prime rib) on a Friday instead of a Thursday.

Missing from our celebration was our mom, who died five years ago. We thought about her so much the day of our Thanksgiving, and on the days leading up to it as we tried to remember how Mom made this, and what did Mom put in her x that made it so good?

On one of the days we were together, my brother Bob, our sister, Maggie, and I tried to recreate the egg noodles that Mom would make with such ease whenever she was “throwing together” her tuna-noodle casserole or making bean and noodle soup. I remember watching her as she rolled out the dough with her wooden rolling pin, rolled the flattened dough jelly-roll style, then sliced the dough into coins with her mother’s ancient boning knife. (She didn’t have a chef’s knife — she used that long, thin-bladed boning knife that her mother used when she worked at the Oscar Meyer processing plant in Davenport, Iowa, for everything.)

She would then begin to toss the coins until they unraveled into long strands.

I wish I could show you. I wish I had the recipe she used for the noodles. I wish I could watch her make them one more time so that I could learn the right way to do it myself. The three of us did OK with our approximation — I found a basic egg noodle recipe online, and after becoming frustrated with tossing the rolled noodles without them falling open, I resorted to using a pasta wheel to slice the strands. But it wasn’t quite the same as when Mom made them.

I wish I could show you. And I could if I’d had the technology back then that we have now. And the forethought to use it in anticipation of the time when Mom wouldn’t be here to make her noodles herself. Or her casseroles. Or her amazing apple pie.

Some things shouldn’t be left to the vagaries of a faulty memory.

So this is what I want you to do. You most certainly have a smartphone, or maybe even a separate camera that can record video and audio. If you’re lucky enough to still have your parents or grandparents, when you gather with them this week for Thanksgiving or Chanukah, or next month for Christmas — or anytime, really — ask your mother to make her meatloaf or her roast chicken or her noodles. Ask your father how he does the stuffing, or how your grandmother makes the gravy.

And pull out that smartphone from your pocket and record it. I promise you someday it will be a treasure.

At the end of our Thanksgiving dinner, we had the apple pie that Maggie made (no, not pumpkin; I told you we’re not traditionalists). She made it the way she could best remember Mom made it. And it was every bit as good. 

But how much better it would have been if we first could have watched a video of Mom showing how it was done.

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