Harriet’s mother, turning to put the ice cream back in the freezer, saw Harriet slouching at the table. “What’s the matter?” she said, as the freezer door barked shut.
“To start with,” said Harriet, loudly, “I’m starving.”
Harriet’s mother wrinkled her brow – vaguely, pleasantly, and then (no, don’t let her say it, thought Harriet) asked the very question that Harriet had known she would ask. “Why don’t you have some of this ice cream?”
“I…hate…that…kind…of….ice…cream.” How many times had she said it?
“Mother, I hate peppermint ice cream.” She felt desperate all of a sudden; didn’t anybody ever listen to her? “I can’t stand it! I’ve never liked it!’ Nobody’s ever liked it but you!”
She was gratified to see her mother’s hurt expression. “I’m sorry… I just thought we all enjoyed something light and cool to eat…. now that it’s so hot at night…”
“Well, get Ida to fix you something….”
“Didn’t she leave you anything?”
“No!” Nothing Harriet wanted, anyway: only tuna fish.
“Well, what would you like then? It’s so hot – you don’t want anything heavy,” she said doubtfully.
“Yes I do!” At Hely’s house, no matter how hot it was, they sat down and ate a real supper every night, big, hot, greasy suppers that left the kitchen sweltering: roast beef, lasagne, fried shrimp.
But her mother wasn’t listening. “Maybe some toast,” she said brightly, as she replaced the ice cream carton in the freezer.
“Why, what’s wrong with that?”
“People don’t have toast for dinner! Why can’t we eat like regular people?” At school, in health class, when Harriet’s teacher had asked the children to record their diets for two weeks, Harriet had been shocked to see how bad her own diet looked when it was written down on paper, particularly on the nights that Ida didn’t cook: Popsicles, black olives, toast and butter. So she’d torn up the real list, and dutifully copied from a cookbook her mother had received as a wedding present (A Thousand Ways to Please Your Family) a prim series of balanced menus: chicken piccata, summer squash gratin, garden salad, apple compote.*
(a vegan version with high reviews can be found here)
6 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1/4 cup butter (1/2 stick)
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper
5 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
4 cloves garlic, mashed, peeled, and diced
1 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 ablespoon ketchup
3/4 cup broth (beef or vegetable)
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Heat a large pot of salted water to boil. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain and return to pot. Mash, then over low heat whisk in butter until melted, cream, and salt and pepper to taste. Whip until light, set aside.
Heat a small pot of water to boil and cook carrots until tender but still firm, about 10 – 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
Preheat oven to 375 F. Saute beef in cast-iron pan. Drain off fat. Add garlic and return to a saute for a couple minutes. Add peas and gently stir until defrosted. Add flour, ketchup, and broth, stirring until the consistency is gravy-like (about five minutes).
Layer the beef mixture then carrots on top. Smooth mashed potatoes and top with shredded cheddar cheese. Bake for fifteen minutes or until golden.
* Seriously, I could just type the whole book out I love it so much, but I shall stop here.