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So help me, I’ll never get a poodle

June 16, 2011

I am turning into my mother.

Once more, with feeling:


The inevitable became alarmingly clear during Mom’s most recent visit. As we were scurrying — among other traits, I inherited her fashionable lateness — to Symphony Hall to spend an evening with the Boston Pops, I caught our reflection in the exterior of a Red Line train. We were both wearing cropped open sweaters, hers a grassy green and mine gray. So it begins.

As I resigned myself to an inescapable fate of loving the color fuchsia, using the internet only to forward chain emails filled with pictures of baby animals snuggling, and telling my life story to total strangers, she demonstrated what’s in store for me by striking up a conversation with the attractive lady sitting next to her on the subway. I stared into my iPhone and sulked.

“Her name’s Nadia,” Mom relayed to me.

“She’s from Russia.”

“She’s a twin.”

As if my apathy for Nadia and her ancestry weren’t already apparent, my combination eye roll and sighs really drove it home. But my intentionally labored breaths brought a sweet-smelling truth — Mom and I were wearing the same Marc Jacobs perfume. Glancing downward, I then noticed we had crossed our legs in the same direction. And, worse, that we were both sporting dark-wash Gap jeans, same size and all. One of us apparently doesn’t dress our age. Me, most likely.

If this trend continues and I keep adopting the scent and sensibility of my mother, who is nearly three decades my senior, attending my first Harry Connick Jr. concert can’t be that far off. No, wait. That already happened a few months ago. And it was awesome.

We have the same nose. WHICH IS HOW IT STARTS.

No matter how much we morph, I’ll never match Mom’s prowess in the kitchen. I should have paid closer attention when she’d attempt to give me cooking lessons. “Jessa, I’m making mandelbrodt. You’ll want to make this someday when I’m gone,” she’d beckon to my bedroom at the top of the stairs in our suburban center-hall Colonial, trying to bait me with guilt in a way only Jewish mothers can.

As a teen, I was much more interested in alphabetically organizing my CDs. As an adult, this is pretty much still the case. Thus, the extent of my culinary knowledge can be boiled down to boiling water. I don’t know how to braise or sautee or nicoise. I suspect that last Frenchy term might just be a type of salad, which — this might come as a shock — I don’t have the faintest idea how to make. I rely so much on my microwave that I’ve had to superglue the handle back on. Twice.

Pre-Pops, Mom and I stayed in for supper, and she set out to instill in me some basic baking know-how. She’d recently created a new dish that she coined a Jewish Calzone, or Italian Hamantashen, after its resemblance to the Purim pastry. We stopped at Whole Foods earlier in the day to purchase a few ingredients and raid the salad bar for roasted peppers, zucchini and eggplant. “It’s OK to cut a few corners and buy something pre-made. No one will know,” she sagely instructed, stripping down to her skivvies to cope with the unseasonable spring heat wave, made worse by a stove set to 375. And also because she missed her calling as a nudist.

Reaching for the whole wheat dough that we’d left out to thaw, she asked me where I keep my flour. It’s cute that she thought I had flour. “There’s pancake mix on the top shelf,” I said. “Will that work?” She shook her head in disbelief, probably pondering where she went wrong as a parent.

After wiping down my unfinished wooden kitchen table, she dusted the surface with pancake mix, explaining that it would keep the dough from sticking. “Rolling pin?” she asked, almost instantly realizing the error of her ways. I shrugged, wondered what MacGyver would do and grabbed a bottle of wine from the rack, pausing at the sink to rinse off a year’s worth of dust.

So there was Mom, dressed only in a nude bra and bright pink-and-orange underwear, which didn’t quite cover her appendectomy scar, kneading dough with a bottle of chardonnay on a table peppered with pancake mix, the white powder sinking into the grooves where my cat Teva digs in her nails to launch herself onto nearby cabinets. Channeling Pavarotti, Mom then cocked her head back, closed her eyes and at the top of her lungs belted out, “O  sole mio … “

Instead of being mortified that my neighbors would hear her through the thin walls of my apartment or, worse, see her as she repeatedly sashayed in front of the open porch door showing no signs of modesty or embarrassment, I felt relieved. That sort of transformation cannot possibly happen overnight. I might have a few good years left. And, by the way, I would forward a chain email to 15 of my closest friends within the next 60 seconds if it meant I’d still be able to squeeze into the same size jeans in 30 years.

Jewish Calzone/Italian Hamentashen

whole wheat pizza dough

pizza sauce

shredded mozzarella cheese

variety of roasted vegetables

extra-virgin olive oil

Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sprinkle tabletop with flour or pancake mix, and thinly roll out pizza dough with a wine bottle. Or a rolling pin, if you want to be all fancy-pants. Transfer dough to Pam-coated large round pizza pan. Lightly brush dough with olive oil. Spread sauce. Add veggies, or contents of Whole Foods salad bar, on about 50 percent of the dough. Add mozzarella cheese. Then add more mozzarella cheese. You can’t take your arteries with you. Cover vegetables with remaining dough, pinching it at the edges to seal it. Brush with olive oil. Top with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly brown, or until your mom says it’s done.

45 Comments leave one →
  1. June 16, 2011 4:18 AM

    For a moment I thought you meant mom stripped down to her underwear in Whole Foods.

    The Jewish Calzone looks exactly like a Calzone to me. How can you tell it’s Jewish?

  2. June 16, 2011 5:13 AM

    speaking from experience (and from the country) italians use wine bottles all. the time. thats probably the most italian thing about this recipe. which i love by the way.

  3. June 16, 2011 6:27 AM

    ” It’s cute that she thought I had flour.”

    Yes it is – very cute!

  4. June 16, 2011 6:48 AM

    i embarass my daughter. well, attempt to. she’s got a very high threshold. will try the underwear thing, in the grocery store.

    • June 17, 2011 9:04 PM

      You could start a trend: Whole Foods, half naked.

  5. June 16, 2011 6:53 AM

    hey, you’ve got it easy — I am also turning into my mother, and YOU KNOW MY MOTHER! Eesh. Also, you don’t have to know how to cook — I will Fed Ex you meatloaf whenever you need it!

  6. June 16, 2011 8:39 AM

    I don’t have a rolling pin either. I only recently acquired a whisk, mixer, and crock pot. The crock pot was a gift…from my mom.

  7. June 16, 2011 8:41 AM

    Awww you two are so adorable together. I kept on waiting to read about your mom trying to match make, set up blind dates for you. So cooking in nude was not bad at all. 😉

  8. rholmes1987 permalink
    June 16, 2011 8:51 AM

    You always brighten my day 🙂

  9. June 16, 2011 9:33 AM

    No surprise that I just adored this post! I have a feeling (much to your dismay) that your Mom and I could be the BEST of friends! We’d tell each other our life’s story within 5 seconds of meeting each other, strip down to our skivvies, get in the kitchen and start cooking (YEP I CAN cook! lol) and be on our way!!!!

    Tell your Mom hi!

    I know I have a Sheltie as my avi (can’t get rid of it cause now I have a dog blog too)…but this is catchatcaren!

  10. June 16, 2011 10:42 AM

    Neither I, nor my mother, want me to turn into her. She’s perfectly happy to blame me on my father’s side of the family. :.)

  11. That Girl permalink
    June 16, 2011 11:04 AM

    Someone cooking naked in your kitchen is an improvement, no?

    Girls like to help. Perhaps you set up a charity that involves women teaching you how to cook/cooking for you in their skivvies. When you come to DC, I’ll make you an amazing pear tarte tatin. Pants absolutely optional.

  12. June 16, 2011 12:37 PM

    on occasion… i find myself sounding exactly like my mother. she has these phrases that she uses…. martyisms or momisms. i’m mortified when the v-man calls me on it & says…”you sound just like mormor”. aaaack!

  13. June 16, 2011 12:39 PM

    She sounds a lot like my dad! He’ll also talk to complete (or incomplete) strangers about everything and then re-tell it all to me as if I cared. And then he expects me to be-friend them as well by publicly commanding me, “honey, tell her about that time you had that cyst removed”.


    Drove me crazy for years!

  14. June 16, 2011 1:20 PM

    I’m really more hung up on the vegetables. You roast them first and THEN put them in the dough? I’m not concerned about the cooking in your underwear part because that would NEVER HAPPEN in my life. My mother’s Dutch and shies away from human interaction and exposed flesh. I’ve seen her in a pair of shirts once and it totally threw me off – even though they went past her knees. When I morph into my mother I’m going to be playing online solitaire and keeping records of my time and score. And then I’ll play four to six hours of Scarbble a day. I can’t wait.

    • June 16, 2011 1:53 PM

      Yep, roast them first, then put them in the dough. You can also just use fresh vegetables.

      Only 6 hours of Scrabble? What a slacker.

  15. June 16, 2011 1:21 PM

    That was supposed to say SHORTS. Her shorts went to her knees. Great. I’m already losing my mind.

  16. madfishmonger permalink
    June 16, 2011 1:50 PM

    I find I am very much like my grandmother, which I don’t find to be a bad thing at all. You could do a lot worse than being like such a lively, friendly, happy-looking woman. It’s still a shock when we realize how much like our parents we are though.
    This recipe sounds delicious, do you mind if I share it over on my recipe community? You are also welcome to join and share and look up how to make easy, lazy food as that the usual kind of food I make.

  17. June 16, 2011 2:01 PM

    Your mom is awesome. And now we know where you get it from.

  18. June 16, 2011 3:08 PM

    Yep… a few more years and then the metamorphism starts. “Oh sole mio…”

  19. June 16, 2011 3:52 PM

    Your mom is amazing. And so are you.

    I used to alphabetize my tapes. I clean the house in my bra and underwear.

    Also – I changed the url to my blog so if you’re looking for me it’s now:

    I haven’t been writing much because my job is ruining my life.

  20. June 16, 2011 4:17 PM

    you can keep wine in your house for a year? mine never survive the week.

    • June 16, 2011 4:45 PM

      This is why I don’t buy wine. Or chocolate.

      Side note: Your mom is a pip. You can emulate her, but you can never BE her. She is obvs a mold-breaker 🙂

  21. June 17, 2011 5:42 AM

    We will all turn into our mothers. It’s part of life I’ve just had to accept. I will develop a fixation with hardware (stiff brushes, sponges, kitchen utensils), talk to myself, run upwards when crossing the road, treat mobile phones like walkie talkies.

    All things considered, I don’t think you’ve got it too bad…

  22. neeroc permalink
    June 17, 2011 10:32 AM

    Your mom sounds awesome. I’ve sworn I wouldn’t be my mother, and for the most part I’m not (my younger sister on the other hand…) However, I did find myself pinching my daughter’s butt when we were shopping the other day and that she used to do. While I’ve gleefully looked forward to all the opportunities to embarrass my daughter, I need to come up with my own *g*

  23. June 17, 2011 7:14 PM

    Look at you, writing recipes! We need to collaborate on a cookbook, posthaste.

    I love your mom. And you. And the Jewish Calzone.

    I honestly think that becoming a mother removes all inhibitions about nudity, etc. My mother used to walk around in her bra and underwear and we would DIE DIE DIE.

    Now? I do it, too. Who cares? FREEING.


  24. June 18, 2011 8:17 PM

    Bewt photo, bewt recipe: I’m more worried about turning into my Dad, who is the talks-to-strangers-and-gets-their-life-story-in-five-minutes member of the family. I think I may have to confess a secret weakness for Mr junior Connick, too….and I love the recipe.

  25. June 19, 2011 11:16 PM

    I have no interest (or talent) in cooking, so I can totally sympathize!

    It totally would have been awesome (yet slightly creepy for you) if I recognized your mom as one of the regular customers at my store. Sadly….no.

  26. BeneathTheSpinLight permalink
    June 20, 2011 12:23 AM

    I’ve used the wine bottle as a rolling pin a few times. Works like a charm!

  27. June 20, 2011 3:54 PM

    the older i get, the more i realize how much like my mother i am. surprisingly, i am okay with this. we even look more alike as we get older. and i’m okay with that too. if i look like my mom does now when i’m 50, i’ll be stoked. she’s beautiful.

  28. June 21, 2011 10:42 AM

    omg hah. i loved this post so much. you’re mom is *adorable*. “You’ll want to make this someday when I’m gone.” what is it w/us jews, death & food? (and guilt) (and chopped organ meats) AND SPEAKING SO LOUDLY, WHAT WITH THE STRANGE SYNTAX AND I SHOULD DIE BEFORE YOU CAWL YAWR MOTHA TWICE IN ONE WEEK?

  29. June 21, 2011 10:45 AM


  30. June 22, 2011 3:00 PM

    I think it’s possible I’m already your mother.

    Which would explain those blackouts I had in the ’80s.

    (You know, in preschool.)

  31. June 23, 2011 12:12 AM

    Was it the pink and orange underwear that made it jewish?

  32. June 27, 2011 3:11 AM

    You lost me at “thinly roll out pizza dough”. . .that sounds like some kinda cooking.. .

  33. June 27, 2011 3:13 AM

    Lunch at 11.30 makes me wish I was Jewish so I could talk like that too. . .sigh. . .

  34. June 28, 2011 4:19 AM

    Umm…. I think you’re missing the point of those email forwards. If you forward those, then ALL your dreams come true. You won’t just be able to fit in the same size jeans. Oh no.
    Much more than that, my friend.
    Harry Connick and maybe season tickets to the Pops. The opportunities are endless.

  35. June 29, 2011 10:51 PM

    Oh my God. I so want to hang out in the kitchen with your mom.

  36. July 1, 2011 5:38 PM

    i now have something to be grateful for: that my mom keeps her clothes on when she’s cooking.

    pedantic jew girl moment: hamentaschen are for purim, not passover. i bet you could make them with pancake mix, though.

  37. July 3, 2011 8:37 PM

    I love the fact that your mom wears bright pink-and-orange underwear. (But not in a creepy way.)

    This recipe looks delicious. As soon as I figure out what preheat means, I’m all over it.

  38. July 4, 2011 11:51 AM

    I think your Mom sounds totally charming!

    My Mom keeps giving away all her furniture/possessions, and buying new ones at yard sales/consignment stores.

    She also told me, after I got back from a two-week trip, that she really missed me while I was gone, and it made her think how awful it would be if I wasn’t in this world any more. Not Jewish guilt, just Jewish morbidness! 🙂

  39. July 4, 2011 10:47 PM

    Your mom sounds great. I think we all get to the age when our parents don’t embarrass us because we care less and less what other people think.

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