What My Mother Taught Me About Chicken Parmigiana

by John Sucich
Originally Published: 
A piece of chicken parmigiana garnished with greens on top

I rarely prepare a meal without a phone call (or two, or more) to my mom to make sure I have the proper ingredients, or the right kind of pan, or to see if I set the oven to the proper temperature.

My mom’s a really talented cook. She has a number of amazing dishes, including her chicken parmigiana. Christmas Eve isn’t Christmas Eve without her homemade pizza. I used to think she could open a shop just to sell that pizza. I’m most impressed by the fact that cooking for my mom is more about feel than it is about following a recipe. She has a number of well-worn cookbooks, but whenever she’s helping me over the phone she’s telling me about what she has learned from her experiences rather than a list of directions.

The same is true for the kind of parent my mom is to me and my two siblings. As I raise three of my own children, I find that sometimes you have to veer away from the printed advice and rely on what you know. And what I know comes from my mom.

It’s hard for me, on days when I want some time to myself and I’m feeling a little selfish around my kids, to think back to how selfless my mom was with the three of us when we were growing up. I’m sure there were bad days for her. There had to be days when she wanted some time for herself. But, if they existed at all, those days were few and far between. She was always “on,” chauffeuring us from activity to activity or doing countless loads of laundry or giving us exactly what we needed. (Even when we were surly teens unwilling to express exactly what we needed, and she was forced to add “mind reader” to her considerable list of talents.)

I have the typical parent-child interactions with my kids now, and I sometimes think, “I probably deserve this based on the kind of kid I was.” But more often, after I’ve gone through something with one of my children, I think, “I should have handled that better. Like Mom would have.” I often find myself reflecting upon just how good a mom she was and is—and how “grandma” is a role she was born to play. She sets a high standard…and not just when it comes to cooking.

I think if you left me in a room with some eggs, bread crumbs, cheese, sauce and chicken, I’d figure out how to make some chicken parmigiana.

But I sure am glad I’ve had my mom to help guide me towards a product that’s even a fraction as good as hers.

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