When she was about 40, Mom went into the hospital for some routine surgery. She hopped out of bed (she had little tolerance for sitting still) and crossed the room. As always, I was overprotective - but she shook me off. "I have to move, don't I?"
She stood at the window, staring pensively at the Miami skyline. After awhile, she said, "You know what I want?" I leaned in and put my arm around her, happy to do anything for her. "What?" She pointed out the window, the golden arches gleaming in the night. "A Big Mac." That's when I knew she was going to be okay.
This epitomized my Mom. She recognized value regardless of its packaging, the diamond in the rough. It's the same nose for quality that made her so indispensable at Marshall's. She could home right in on the designer gem among the overstuffed rack of pilly knitwear. The ultimate independent, Mom had no problem raving about a meal at La Grenouille while defending the beauty of the Special Sauce. The best things in life were sometimes labeled, sometimes not. You had to follow your instincts.
Her own burgers were juicy medium-rare affairs, smothered with onions and mushrooms, and served with a fresh green salad and her famous home-made french fries - a topic I'll save for another day. The burgers were fried in butter at high heat, and out of a sizzling cloud of smoke, presto. She cooked them fast, and ate them faster. My father, a slow and meticulous eater, had barely enough time to spread his napkin before Mom had lustily consumed half her meal.
Haute cuisine, down home cooking - why settle for one when you can have both? There was no reason to cover simplicity with pretense, especially when the right combination of ingredients could be so transporting. Embracing it all in a delicious balance - that's the secret to my Mom's uniquely special sauce.