He saw a can of salmon on the kitchen counter. “Are we having salmon croquettes?” he asked with a huge grin.
“ I love salmon croquettes! My granny used to make them.”
In the humble circles of Texas, we eat salmon from a can. Of course, now that we are more worldly, we enjoy fresh salmon broiled or baked, but salmon croquettes are what we grew up on.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s in Amarillo, we only ate canned vegetables, canned tuna, even ham from a can. It’s hard to imagine now, but that tin smell and taste seemed normal. Nothing came in an easy-open pouch or fresh frozen. The croquette recipe I remember is: canned and drained salmon, saltine cracker crumbs, an egg, and maybe chopped onion if you want to get fancy
You first had to dig out all of the small bones from the can-shaped salmon. We were always warned that you could choke and die if you swallowed a bone! Then, you mix it all together and form patties that you coat on both sides with cornmeal. Next, you pan fry until golden brown. Yum!
Boo grew up in a small east Texas town. To this day, his brother, who still lives there, doesn’t lock his house or car. It’s just an easy-living atmosphere. When Boo was in high school and could finally leave campus, he and a friend would walk to his granny’s house for lunch every day. Sometimes they would eat sandwiches, but mainly Granny made those growing boys a hot meal; meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast, and salmon croquettes. So when Boo saw the can of salmon, he immediately thought of dear Granny, God rest her soul.
There are many meals I’ve made through the years that did not quite match up to Granny’s. Usually, the comments from Boo go something like this:
“Where’s the gravy?”
“Granny used to always make mashed potatoes with meatloaf.”
Most of the time I catch myself before snapping, “Well, I’m not Granny. God rest her soul.”
Granny must have been a saint. She loved to cook and see her children and grandchildren eat her food. She equated food with love and Boo has told me several times that my cooking is good, but to make it great I’d have to cook with my heart, not my head.
Even Boo cooks with love. On nights when we agree to just fend for ourselves, I get cheese and crackers and then I hear Boo rattling pots and pans and I smell bacon. Granny used bacon with everything. He will whip up a beautiful omelet, bacon and blueberry pancakes, while I sit down to my hard cheese and a few Ritz. “I didn’t know you were going to do that!” I whine. “I cook with this, Boo (making a heart shape with his hands) I cook with this!”
While I admit, love is the furthest from my mind when I’m preparing a meal, I do pride myself on the fact that you will not starve at my house. My food is nutritious, simple and I have a few never-fail recipes, but my heart is just not in it. I’m not dear Granny, God rest her soul.
While I was mixing my croquettes, I asked Boo, “How did Granny make the salmon croquettes?”
He looked at my ingredients and said, “Well, for starters Granny chopped up the onion so fine, I couldn’t see it.” I got out the knife and rechopped onions even smaller, trying not to be resentful. And, about thirty minutes later, when I saw the contented smile on Boo’s face and heard him say, “This is just like Granny used to make,” I knew I had succeeded.
“Thanks, babe,” I said and I sent up a special thank you to Granny, God rest her soul, for helping me find the love. I salute the Granny’s of the world. All of the beautiful people who live to love and love to cook. I admire them and respect their spirit, heart, and soul, and I admit I could stand to be a little more like Granny.
“Granny, if you’re looking down on me, please give me a little nudge now and then, so I can make Boo happy with my culinary efforts.”
Grant me the serenity not to snap at his requests for gravy,
the courage to try new recipes, and the wisdom to know my limitations.