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the fine print: Tom Junod’s mom couldn’t cook, but she certainly raised a fine writer

March 11, 2012

As you might have guessed, Tom Junod’s mother couldn’t cook. Me? I can’t clean house. Only both Frances and I have occasionally been forced into congress with these menial but freighted chores. My foray into tidying was necessitated by the search for a lost key, which remains lost, but the search unearthed my tattered, spattered clipping of this essay (September 2010), from the most enduringly satisfying magazine, Esquire. I clipped the page for both the essay My Mom Couldn’t Cook as well as the recipe (for Macaroni Pie, immortalized in my blog post The Five Stages of Macaroni and Cheese), the Eat Like a Man series being a highlight of my monthly reading for its absence of calorie or carb counting. Pure hedonistic appetite. Merci Esquire. But back to M. Junod and his mother.

No one’s mother is perfect. And the book, film, theatre, TV drama and even the music business thanks the universe for that narrative toehold. But to love an imperfect mother? That is a moment in a person’s life, an achievement, a point of no return to angry, hurt and usually-extended-far-into-second-and-third-decades-0f childhood.

It is a moment of excruciating beauty.

In My Mom Couldn’t Cook, Tom Junod, who writes a lot for Esquire, has crystalized that moment in this essay, which hooked me from, let me count, the 17th and 21st words.

My mother, Frances Junod, was not just a mother, not just a mom. She was a dame. She was a broad. She went through her entire life as a Harlowesque platinum blond, and I never knew the real color of her hair. She liked to go to the track, and she liked to go out to restaurants. She did not like to cook. That she did it anyway — that she had no choice — owed itself to generational expectations, and to the fact that if my mother was a doll, in the Runyonesque sense of the word, my father was a guy, a pinkie-ringed sharpie who …

Continue reading the essay on esquire.com or read the extended version on esquire.com’s Eat Like a Man blog.

Thank you, Tom Junod.

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