While it took a few marriages to find and marry the love of my life, I have been extremely fortunate in the mother-in-law department. The first, Darlene, was simply a good person. We didn’t agree on religious views or gender roles, but she was kind, well-organized and one smart cookie.
She was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness, although she never explicitly told me so. I eventually gleaned it from her son, my husband Russ #1 (so called because years later I dated another man named Russ which confused and perplexed my family and friends, so I opted to number them for clarity) when we spent the one Christmas holiday we were married driving to visit Russ’ grandparents in Arizona where there were no gifts, no tree and no green and red decorations. Instead I learned to love avocado toast (well before millenniums were glints in their parents’ eyes), and visited Mexico for the first time.
Darlene also taught me how to use a recipe as a guide, not as a strict set of rules. I still remember her grabbing leftover turkey out of the fridge, pulling cooked mushrooms out of the freezer, setting out the nutmeg and sherry and making the most tasty casserole I had ever had: turkey tetrazzini. I loved it so much that she gave me her well-loved copy of the cookbook she based the recipe on. Thirty-nine years later I still have and use it. Newer versions simply don’t offer the same recipes.
Recently I was craving tetrazzini. The poor dilapidated cookbook lives on my counter, so a quick glance to verify a few details and viola!