Mighty Fine

When I was a little kid, I thought my mom was the world’s best cook.  She always seemed to just know how to put things together.  Oh, she had cookbooks, but I never saw her use them.  She would stand at the stove and throw in a pinch of this and a scoop of that;  she’d take a dainty little taste off the edge of the spoon, make a face, and toss in something else.

When I married my husband and met his family, I realized that my mom wasn’t quite the cook I had always believed her to be.  Compared to the food prepared by my in-laws, my mother’s cooking was rather bland.  She made a lot of baked chicken and boiled potatoes, very few sauces or gravies.  It was plain, but it kept our bellies full.

Holidays were the only time she really ventured into fancier dishes.  Thanksgiving was her particular favorite, and she would wake up at some ungodly pre-dawn hour to start cooking while she sipped away at bottomless glasses of cheap wine. By the time my sisters and I woke up, the house smelled divine and the kitchen table was at near-collapse under the weight of all of the food.

Mom was usually fairly well bombed by that point, but we pretended not to notice.  That early in the day, she was still a jovial drunk.  Later, my sisters and I would start placing our bets on which family member would be the lucky one chosen for the annual Thanksgiving Day Fight.  By the time we sat down to eat dessert, it was a given that someone would be crying, someone would be shouting, and I would be shoveling in mouthfuls of pie in a frantic attempt at tasting them all before Mom declared the holiday over.

Her specialty was lemon merengue pie.  Tart and sweet, with creamy merenge that had nice crispy peaks, it was the perfect finish to any holiday dinner.  When anyone asked for her recipe, she shook her head and told us it was a “family secret”.

I never understood why she didn’t consider her own daughters “family” enough to share the recipe with us.

Before she died, I asked her for the recipe one last time.  She agreed that her lemon merengue pie was mighty fine and took the recipe with her to the grave.

I missed mom when I got married and she wasn’t at my wedding.  I missed her when each of my children was born, and I missed her at odd times of the day or night when I thought of all the things I wanted to ask her.  But I never missed her as much as I did on Thanksgiving, when I craved a slice of her lemon merengue pie.  I tried countless recipes, and my in-laws tried their own recipes, but nothing was quite right.

I had almost forgotten about Mom’s pie nearly twenty years later, when a small box on the grocery store shelf caught my eye.  My*T* Fine lemon pudding and pie filling.

My*T*Fine.

Mighty Fine?

No way.

No freaking way.

0007239233012_300X300I made a lemon merengue pie that night.  Mom’s lemon merengue pie.  My mother’s “secret” recipe was a box mix.  A cheap box mix. 

When I now make that pie at Thanksgiving every year, I tell my kids that it’s an old family secret.  And then I show them them the empty box of My*T*Fine and we all laugh.

And I keep the real family secret from them.  The one that made my mom get drunk and pick fights on her favorite holiday year after year. The same one that keeps me in my pajamas some days, and sometimes makes me cry for no reason.

Because Depression tastes a lot like lemon merengue pie.

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6 thoughts on “Mighty Fine

  1. I love how it was My T Fine Pudding all along that your mom used for her pie, but seriously so sorry how you have kept this secret for all this time. My heart was breaking for you at the end and just so sorry for all you have been through with the loss of your mom. Thank you for sharing though and linking up with us.

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  2. Glad to hear you figured out the secret. Every family is so different but so much the same. Making new traditions are just as important as remembering the old ones!

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  3. Wow. What an incredible post. First, I’m so sorry that your Thanksgivings looked as they did, that you lost your mom too young and that her favorite holiday was filled with anger and ugliness as well. Second, I love that you discovered the secret of Might T Fine pie filling. Lemon meringue is one of my very favorites, too.

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  4. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I would like to explain why reading this had me in tears. It’s very hard to describe to others how difficult holidays can be unless they grew up in a house that was similar to the one in your story. It didn’t matter the holiday or whether we were hosting it at our house or another relative was, the outcome was always the same. The holiday wasn’t a holiday unless it ended with my mom fighting with someone or usually everyone and everything was ruined. Thank you again for sharing.

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  5. Thank you for sharing this story. Your perspective on events like this help bring clarity to my experiences and provide a great deal of healing.

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