It strikes us here at BoomerCafé that little is more fun than reminiscing about the past — And Oh, such an innocent past it was. That’s what our friend Eric Mondschein of Queensbury, New York, does in his book Life at 12 College Road, and today he treats us to this excerpt about The Orange Casserole Pot.
My mom had a few incredible go-to dishes: beef stew, shepherd’s pie, spaghetti with meatballs, and macaroni and cheese were chief among them. When she created these dishes, she always used an orange Le Creuset casserole pot to cook and serve in. While the rest of us anxiously awaited its arrival at the dining room table, we’d go through our pre-meal rituals: Dad loading up his plate with salad, then passing it to my brother, while I helped myself to the homemade rolls.
Mom would enter from the kitchen in one of those June Cleaver shirtwaist dresses, carrying the casserole pot with both hands. She’d always head straight for Dad, who was poised for action, serving spoon in hand.
That’s when it would start.
Mom would make her way to Dad’s left, and he’d begin to heap portions onto his plate with his right hand. Ah, but Dad was left-handed. So why did he use his right hand? And why didn’t she stand on his right side so that he could use his natural left?
These were the questions that gripped my mind at the time, and looking over at my brother, it was obvious that I wasn’t alone. The two of us looked quite different — Jeff with Mom’s blue eyes, light skin, and blonde hair, and me with Dad’s brown eyes, dark complexion, and brown hair. And we took our personality cues from opposite parents, too — I was more like Mom and Jeff took after Dad. But in puzzling childhood moments like these, my very different brother and I were often in the same boat.
As Dad served himself, we heard Mom protest in a rather stern, ‘You are in real trouble now,’ kind of way, “Mort, stop it.” He would freeze, look up to her with a devilish grin, and ask, “What?” His typically booming voice was softer, free of its normal edge, even tender. Mom would shake her head and tell him he was incorrigible. They would both smile, and Dad would finish serving himself before Mom moved on to my brother.
It took me several years to fully grasp what had been going on — I think I was thirteen when I cracked the case. I was burning to tell my brother and did so with haste. Of course, being eleven at the time, the subject was completely out of his depth.
Now, whenever I see an orange Le Creuset casserole pot, my wife, Ginny, smiles, looks directly into my eyes, and says, “Rick, don’t you even think about it!”