Cheeeken in a Can and Butter Cookies

BITE ME! Food and Whine on FnS

My mother was a fancy lady. She never cooked, nor cleaned, nor kept up a home. She had grown up in South America, with “servants.” That’s the word she used for the help they had around her house. They had a servant for bed making, sweeping, cooking, market shopping, and small child watching. They even had one to feed my older sister’s pet howler monkey.

When she moved to the United States, that all had to stop. No maids here, but at least there were appliances. Still, the shock of do-it-yourself life along with the unwilling attitude on her part to have to learn how to do for herself, birthed a lot of meal time horror stories.

She couldn’t cook worth a lick.

They were six of us, and we all weighed in the 20th percentile. She’d take us to the Doctor, asking “why dey so skeeny?” Hmmmm, let’s see if we can figure this out. You don’t cook, kids don’t eat. Voila.

Since there had been a “servant” to shop the market in Colombia for my mother’s family, she had no idea what needed to be kept in a house for groceries. Throw that charming bit of information in with the fact that she knew only bare essential English and therefore GUESSED at what the ingredients were in the containers at the grocery store, and it was pot luck for dinner every night.

One day, she came home from MegaMart with huge blue white lidded containers that had labels on them showing a picture of a beautiful golden broasted chicken.

She removed the white lid of the large can, and using a can opener, began to go around the top of the big barrel. As the metal lid popped off, I remember her screams from the kitchen of “Que??” when she saw the can’s contents: solid white wax. “Dey rob joo heer! Dees ees suppossed tooo beee a CHEEEKIN!”

 She had bought cans of Crisco, based on what the labels depicted, or in her view — promised, would be inside, which was a chicken.

That’s how my mother shopped: grab and go based on what the picture showed.

My mother had a sweet tooth and I’m surprised she survived with any calcium left in her mouth. Candy, chocolate, and coookeees. Cookies were her favorite.

We had finished a concoction of open canned meals one night: canned potatoes dumped together with canned Dinty Moore dumped together with a jar of salsa. Mmmhmmm. That Friday night special was worth at least a pound or two in weight loss. She stood up after dinner and said, almost surprised, “OH! I forgot dat I haff a soooprise for joo.” And off to the kitchen she went.

We waited, excited for her return. She came back (after opening some box or can or receptacle of something) with a platter full of tiny golden flowers.

Oooooowwww. We all thought. Baby cookies!

All six of us pounced on the platter and jammed the tiny cut-outs into our mouths by the fistfuls.

Within seconds we were all spitting out the partiallly chewed up remnants into our napkins (cloth, duh). Eeeewwww. What is that?

“Cooookeeees!,” she said angrily. “De box show coookeees! Stoopeed countree, now what dey poot een da box!”

True to her functional dysfunctional style, my mother had grabbed a box of what looked to her to be small golden gussied up vanilla wafers.

But she had grabbed the dairy state’s best instead: golden butter medallions, in the shape of delicate rosettes.

“Hello, Doctor? Doo joo hab appointments for next week? My cheeldren jess loos twoo morrrre pounds.”



Alexandra is an overanalyzing, oversensitive mother of three boys who somehow found herself named as BlogHer ’11′s Voice of The Year for Humor. She has been a mother since 1994, which means she hasn’t been right about anything since. She blogs of the sweet and the funny while trying to go unnoticed in her small town. You can find her at Good Day, Regular People. Did we mention socially awkward? We should, which is why the internet was made for her.


  1. hehe….ugh….i wonder if she would mind coming to work for us…i could stand to lose a few pounds…smiles….

  2. Well you can’t blame her for believing the labels. Talk about lies in advertising. I stopped buying Hamburger Helper when I realized no white gloved hand was going to jump out and talk me through the meal prep.

    Good one A.

  3. Bahahahaha!

  4. OK, that’s hilarious. Love how you captured the dialogue!

  5. I tried to convince my ex-husband and his family that I was a fancy lady and couldn’t prepare meals. They didn’t buy it. Thinking I should have tried the Dinty Moore…

  6. Loved that she bought a can of Crisco and expected a chicken. HA!

  7. Fainting here. Oh my gosh you poor kids (and your poor mother…as my eyesight goes, I’m getting to be doing life more and more on the ‘pictures on the box’ so to speak). Love your phonetic spellings, the spitting out the golden medallions, your mother’s outrage at the Crisco… Pain is funny.

  8. Just can’t help but laugh! Though you would expect what is in the picture to be IN the container! LOL

    • The danger was in the daily never a lesson learned.

      Each day, she thought the same thing.

      Each day, the pounds melted off.


      I looked like the letter L when I turned sideways.

  9. Hmmm. My mother couldnt cook either, but somehow I was always up towards the high end of the chart. Must be glandular. You should write up an Empress’s Mama’s Diet Plan Book. Might be your ticket to Oprah. Or at least Rachel Ray. Funny post, alexandra.

    • Oh, Kablooey: I COULD.

      Many many many more recipes, sad to say.


      Like: how does a mother think that one box of Spatini spaghetti sauce (remember them??) would feed six children, one mother, and one grandmother??

  10. My grandmother who was born and raised in Mexico could cook like a dream (although it was a dream with a LOT of lard) but my European grandmother….


    Let’s just say she’s a bit more spartan with the good taste.

    To this day, the entire side of my mother’s family says two things at every meal that are never true:

    “OH there’s SO MUCH FOOD!” followed by “EVERYTHING IS DELICIOUS!”

    No. And also no.
    Never enough. Never tasty. So.

    The phrase “Feast of Famine” has its own special meaning to me…

  11. Right?

    If only my butt could have my mother’s noncooking now. Just my butt, though.

    Don’t want to lose what minute padding still desperately clings to my face and boobage.

  12. I am barfing.


    No wonder you’re so thin.

Speak Your Mind