Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Apples & Thyme: Not Your Mother's Pork Chops and Applesauce

“Pawk Chaaaahps an' appleshaash. Gee, Alish, that'sh shwell.” --Peter Brady

I grew up eating in front of the tv. My mother's schizophrenia emerged when I was seven years old and my brother was six, and my grandmother—crusty, independent, and fiercely over-protective—did everything she could to take care of us and our mom.

Our dad had left years earlier, and our grandfather wasn't in the picture, either. So g'ma did the best she could, for which I am forever grateful. She made her monthly retirement and social security checks stretch to cover meals for the whole family, which I prepared according to her growled instructions.

I won't lie. It's not easy having a mentally ill person in your home. Even more difficult when it's your mom. Everyone in the family resents having to live like that, and everyone is on edge.

But that's life, and it's amazing how much strength God gives you when you need it.

One of our regular meals was pork chops and applesauce. You know the kind. A leathery slab of over-cooked pork with a blob of applesauce served right from the jar at table. With instant mashed, of course.

We often ate from tv trays in front of the television. Because of mom's illness, she would become angry at the least provocation—sometimes no provocation at all. So conversation was limited at home, in attempt to keep the inevitable from happening. It was simpler to eat in front of the tv—no talking, just watching tv. And the Brady Bunch was one of our favorites.

When Vanielje Kitchen announced this foodblogging event, celebrating mothers and grandmothers with a recipe, I really racked my brain. I can not truly say that anyone taught me good cooking—no, I was taught cooking for sustenance using canned produce and boxed starches... until, that is, I left home and taught myself how to cook, using fresh foods. Most of my childhood is better left forgotten, truth be told.

So instead I celebrate myself today, because I—with strength from my God—reached past my upbringing. I've overcome my own past. I've loved, I've travelled all over the world, and I've enjoyed a measure of success in the professional world. I have a good marriage to a wonderful, decent man. And I've lived to forgive—my mother, for being sick; my grandmother, for being crusty and suffocatingly restrictive; my father, for leaving us to such a fate; and myself, for those unfair feelings I've had toward my own family.

And for this theme of Apples and Thyme, I offer you my rendition of the meal from my favorite Brady Bunch Episode... and I hope Inge will not be offended that I, too, used Apples and Thyme as my main ingredients. I think this dish truly does reflect my relationship with both my mother and grandmother—because I have reinvented myself, and my cooking.

Not Your Mother's Pork Chops and Applesauce

2 boneless pork chops, 1-inch thick
salt and pepper to taste
olive oil
1 tablespoon mustard
1 cup apple cider
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 tablespoon butter

Season chops with salt and pepper. Brown in olive oil in a skillet over a medium flame. When browned on both sides, remove chops from pan and drain off excess grease. Return pan to stove and set flame to low. Add mustard, cider, thyme and sage; whisk to blend. Return chops to pan, cover, and simmer 10 minutes. (This results in a well done chop; if you prefer your pork less than well done, start checking after 5 minutes.)

Remove chops from pan again; increase flame to medium-high to bring sauce to a boil. Reduce pan sauce to ½ cup (it took me about 5 minutes). Turn off heat and add butter; stir to melt.

Serve chops with pan sauce over steamed brown rice, or any desired side dish. I like it just by itself!

Note: This would be lovely with shallot in the sauce; I just didn't have any.

While this event is a celebration to honor the women who shaped our lives, I have to say that I am who I've become in spite of what has happened. And so thankful, so very thankful, that neither I nor my dear, sweet, wonderful brother, were trapped by our circumstances.
To see the roundup of this year's Apples & Thyme event, click here.



african vanielje said...

Mrs W. Not offended at all, rather I would like to applaud you and how you've overcome not only circumstances, but the inevitable taste of residual bitterness such an upbringing leaves in your mouth. Brava, my friend, and a brave and honest story to add to our collection. Not to mention a delicious looking recipe. Thank you.

Mrs. W said...

Thank you for your kind words. I feel very fortunate, even blessed, no matter what life has thrown my way.

The Passionate Palate said...

I celebrate you, too, for building a solid life out of a difficult background. Wonderful post.

On a lighter note, I had to laugh at the Peter Brady quote, because I remember that episode so well (after having seen it at least 20 times!) I think of it every time I see pork chops or apple sauce!

Thanks for particpating in our event,

sognatrice said...

What a gorgeous post! Inge was right that I should've grabbed some tissues before I started reading through the Apples & Thyme roundup....

Such an inspiring story grounded in a memory that I'd venture to say nearly all of us have--those Brady kids and their pork chops. Beautifully written.

Thank you so much for sharing, and "complimenti" as we say in Italy for your and your brother's triumph over circumstances.

Ann said...

What an inspiring story you tell. Your pork chops look absolutely delicious--perfectly juicey and savory.

Ruth Daniels said...

Thank you for sharing such a heartfelt and honest recounting.

Mrs. W said...

Many thanks, Jeni, Sognatrice, Ann and Ruth for your kind compliments. This was a difficult post to write--but certainly good for the soul.

Carrie said...

This is an excellent post Mrs. W!!! I can share your feelings about living with a person with mental illness. It is NOT easy and it takes a lot of courage to get through it. You Do need to celebrate how far you have come!! Thank you for being brave and posting this story! And your chops looks awesome!! Love it girl!

Tartelette said...

Thanks for sharing so much about you and your childhood, very inspiring. I love pork chops with sauteed apples and onions. Glad you found your strength in celebrating life and God. Keep it up!

Dolores said...

I really don't have a comment worthy of this post, but I didn't want to walk away anonymously, either. Know that I'm honored you chose to share your story. I imagine it was difficult to write, and even more difficult to live, and it moved me. You are living, breathing, blogging proof that we are more than products of our environment... that we have significant control over our response to it, and how we exercise that control shapes who we are.

Mrs. W said...

Thank you, Carrie, Tartelette and Dolores. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the outpouring of kindness this event has brought about. I don't know what to say...

I can't really take credit for myself. Rather, I continue to point to God. You can't grow up the way I did and turn out fine without a miracle.

Julie said...

I loved that episode, too! Good for you for using the strength you had inside to rise above what could've held you down.

rokh said...

it takes courage to write this post but it takes even much more courage to be who you are today. keep up the spirit! :)

Mrs. W said...

Thanks for stopping in, Julie and rokh--and for the uplifting comments! What a great blog event this was. Hurrah for Apples & Thyme!

Merav said...

Thank you for sharing such an inspiring story. And your dish looks delicious!

Kit said...

I've come late to the Apple and Thyme round up and without my tissues too ... thank you for sharing your story - it's inspiring to read your triumph over circumstances and that you've come through with love and faith in yourself. I salute you.

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