Remembering mom

Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the day I lost my best friend, my mom. Nancy Jean McNeill passed away at the very young age of 62 after a courageous 4 year battle with Multiple Myeloma.  It hurts like hell every day.  I miss her so much.  Not a day has gone by that there hasn’t been something I want to share with her.

There are so many things I could talk about here, about how she was the most amazing person ever, her unwavering (and sometimes unnerving) devotion to family, our shared love of the 1980’s show China Beach and our mutual distaste for jerks.  This being a food focused blog I thought I’d do

 Top 10 Food-Related Memories of Mom

1. Peeps – Mom LOVED peeps and her favorite way to indulge was to eat them slightly stale with a cup of coffee.  Awful, I know. We enjoyed finding and buying for her all the various crazy varieties that came out in the past few years while she was sick.  She really liked the gingerbread.

2. Instant Coffee – For most of her adult life mom drank instant coffee. And lots of it, often late at night when she got home from work.  We did have a coffee pot but she never saw the point unless 3 or more people were drinking it.  She took it with just a touch of milk, no sugar.  Horrible stuff.

3. Spaghetti & Meatballs – Homemade sauce with homemade meatballs simmered for hours. So, so good.  The meatballs were flavorful and tender, the sauce was just thick enough to coat the pasta perfectly.  She made it from memory, as I do now.  We’d talk about it and sometimes tweak things a bit, ex. I switched to turkey for the meatballs, she converted to olive oil from canola.  Best served with homemade garlic bread and a salad.  No jarred sauce, ever!

4. Orange cheese & peanut butter crackers – With 3 kids, a husband, a job (or three) and a big, old house my mom was busy. Not like we’re busy today with FB, blogs, Twitter, complaining about being busy but serious, head-spinning busy. More often than not during my elementary and middle school years these were her lunch.  I see them and get weepy.

5. Toast – Almost every single day mom had the same thing for breakfast, toast with margarine and jelly.  With the instant coffee.  I very distinctly remembering that I thought it was the most boring thing ever for breakfast.  With all the great options available (sugar cereal, pop tarts, bagels, toaster pastries, etc.) you’d chose toast?!?!  Of course I now have toast and coffee more often than not for breakfast.   If it wasn’t toast it was…

6. Frosted Flakes & Shredded Wheat – The two cereals mom liked, until I got older and she added Cheerios and Kashi to her below the kitchen island selection.  The Frosted Flakes were a rare treat and she never sat long enough to eat them before they got soggy.  The shredded wheat was her favorite but I remain convinced it was because no one else would eat them!

7.  Lemon Squares & Fig Bars – Speaking of things no one else would eat.  These weren’t homemade lemon squares or Fig Newtons, but those awful grocery store bakery creations of two layers of flaky shortening based crust with lemon or fig filling.  No frosting. No texture. So dry.  She hid them just in case Dad got desperate and ate them covered in ice cream.

8. Coffee Ice Cream – Mom loved coffee ice cream.  Again, something no one else liked that was just for her.  A few years ago, before her diagnosis, we met for dinner after work in Boston and then went to J.P. Licks on Newbury St. for ice cream.  She absolutely loved their coffee ice cream.  The darker, richer coffee flavor of a smaller batch, local producer was something of a revelation to her.  I was so happy to have shared this with her. 

9. Ice Cream Sundaes – On the subject of ice cream, there were some awesome nights when I was a kid when Dad was away for work training and we got Brigham’s ice cream sundaes for dinner. Anything we wanted, any size. That makes her the coolest, best mom ever. Period.

10. Old School Food – Not really one food, but a collection of things she enjoyed that  stemmed from her childhood.   These things were mostly detested by the rest of the household which didn’t deter her from liking them but instead made her doubt our moral character.  A sampling includes fish sticks, brown bread, baked beans, liver & onions, turnips and boiled onions.  Many were made by my grandmother and grandfather while she was growing up, simple food for a family of nine.

There are countless other food memories, some of places (The Villa Rosa, Sullivan’s, The 99, Windy City Pizza…) and others of celebrations (Thanksgiving, Christmas morning breakfast, the year we set up the living/dining room as restaurant for my grandparents’ anniversary…).  We had a lot of  a fun, a lot of the time.  Miss you Mom!


7 thoughts on “Remembering mom

  1. Jenna Hitchko Braun says:

    Erin – this is so beautifully written, so real and from the heart. I feel like I know your mom a little bit more today. It got me thinking about a food memory of your mom. It would be meatloaf. The funny thing is I can’t stand meatloaf. When she learned this she would make it and invite Tim over for dinner when I traveled for work. I loved her for this as Tim got his fix and I never had to make it:) xo


  2. Becky says:

    Good & our family go back a long way…..she also loved Ice cream from the Soda Fountian in Ocean Park. I cherish the memories!


  3. Karen says:

    you mentioned sundaes–she and I would be to the ice cream shop in east Milton for sundaes when we were pregnant with you and Jill! she loved going to Bones in Eustis–and yes, coffee ice cream was her fav! Her instant coffee was a sore point between us! I would make regular coffee and she shyly ask me if I had any instant–grrr! Loved her a lot and miss her
    every day….I will visit her tomorrow and we will laugh about all these post!


  4. Kate says:

    Nance encouraged me to learn the joy of American cheese with yellow mustard (verboten in our house, of course). I loved kidding her about fried SPAM sandwiches and brought her pimiento cheese spread whenever the stores carried it. The kitchen was her realm and we were all invited to the table.
    MB is developing her laugh. It makes us smile all the wider.


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