It seemed that everyday my 5 siblings and I had to bring something home from school for my parents to sign. Usually they were questions regarding a church service or a field trip. Before my first communion there was a suddenly flurry of questions being sent by the nun that taught me. “When is the best time for the service? Should the boys wear dark trousers? Will the girls wear veils?” Since there were six kids my mom didn’t have time for this foolishness but answered all the questions until I brought the last request?
“The teacher wants to know what you favorite recipe is?” I said, a mouth full of day-old strawberry Zinger.
In my innocents I wasn’t aware of the maelstrom that would follow. It must have been the straw that broke the camel's back because my mom was putting her foot down. She would not answer. The battle lines were drawn- my mother against a Catholic nun- it would be a battle royale. The nun, having taken a vow to give up most everything, was not about to cede her last pleasure, which was total control. Each day she would demand the recipe and each night my mother would say no. It was a battle of wills and I, the humble messenger- an innocent amongst Carcassonian treachery, would bounce back and forth like a ping-pong ball with the serve of “Recipe tomorrow!” and a return volley of “Not a chance!”
Finally, the nun, in a breach of game etiquette made a proclamation. “Young Misplaced will not be allowed back in school until he brings your favorite recipe forthwith.” My mother weighed the options – Concede the battle or allow her 5th child, who had incredible hair, even then, to live in the darkness of ignorance for the rest of his life. She apparently was still weighing these options the next morning, as she had not given me a recipe*. As my mom filled 6 brown paper bags with lunches, I repeated the terms of surrender to her. It was quiet- the last apple fell much too hard on the sandwich in the bag- I made a mental note to not take that particular lunch. My mother, in a rare display of melt down, stormed into the pantry, pulled down a packet of Lime Jell-O, ripped the back off and said in a dark, ominous voice, “Give this to the Nun”. The incident was eventually forgotten and my little brother got the dented sandwich. My world was once again golden
First communion arrived, as it always does, near Mother’s Day. In appreciation for raising us Catholic and not some heathen, bastard offshoot of Christianity, we gave our mothers cookbooks that had been illustrated by us. These handmade books contained the favorite recipes, with detailed instructions, of all the mothers. Included were such gems as, Mrs. Gunderson’s favorite Lamp-of-God chops, Mrs. O’Connor’s heavenly homemade Irish Soda Bread, Mrs. Bedelias’ Favorite Lemon Merigue Pie.
And under the M’s could be found
Mrs. Misplaced’s Favorite Lime Jell-O
Bring 2 cups of water to a boil
Stir in content of Lime Jell-O Packet
Allow to cool.
It was some time before the prank phone calls stopped. The story would find it’s way back into our lives. A letter from Father Cunningham saying how much they enjoyed this Jell-O treat; the Lime Jell-O box ornament that would mysteriously appear on our Christmas tree each year; the 25th grade school re-union, where a copy of the recipe was next to the first communion photo. As I consider this now it is very obvious that I have deliberately moved to a country that does not sell Jell-O, I just want to get on with my life.
*Had she known I would be educated and unemployed in Paris she might have chosen differently- hindsight is always 20/20.