Mom's New England Boiled Dinner & Hospitality

My beloved mother passed away three year’s ago this January. As I reminisce about her, I am realizing more and more that she had her priorities in order.  My mom was not a very organized person, nor did she have an immaculate house. She would say that our home was “lived-in”. She did not have a schedule book or even a calendar hanging in the kitchen. In spite of this, she always practiced hospitality. She would never “schedule” someone in to invite for dinner, but welcomed all who crossed her path to come in , relax and eat.

For certain, practicing hospitality was a lifestyle for her. I’m really not sure how this was accomplished but we seemed to always have folks over. If mom made a pot of chicken soup, or spaghetti, she would make extra to share with someone in our neighborhood. She was not a fussbudget about her table and our dishes were not lovely or even matching. I don’t think she even noticed. She was just so delighted to have a full house. (well I should say, a fuller house because there were already 6 of us in a small 2 bedroom apartment). Nearly every Sunday she made a special dinner. Often it was her “New England Boiled Dinner.” She’d boil a ham or corned beef, add cabbage, potatoes, some small onions, carrots, a bay leaf and a turnip or two. The aroma of the beef and vegetables boiling seemed to make it a special day. You just knew it was Sunday because something especially yummy was on the stove. Most of the folks who ate with us were not actually invited in a formal way. Neighbors would drop by from our apartment complex, or my brothers college friends would be over.

One neighbor Evelyn would stop in every time my mom was frying liver and onions. My mom would warmly welcome her. On occasion, my dad would have a friend from work whom we called “Uncle Bill.”  If she did not have supper started when folks come over she’d just “throw” something together. One time my brother had several of his friends over who were visiting from Japan. I was old enough then to worry a bit about how to entertain them. I wanted to make an impression. I wanted to serve on pretty dishes a “highfalutin” meal.  My mom was not concerned at all but just happy to have them in her home.  Before I knew it out came last nights spaghetti…bread was buttered….vegetables warmed….maybe a salad with Thousand Island dressing prepared.  Whatever she had, it was on the table and the guests seemed pleased. They loved sampling American cuisine and ate plenty. I remember feeling relieved that my mom could pull this off and began to delight in the company as well. Bless her heart. I don’t think any of us children realized then that she was the one who had her act together.  She cared about people more than anything else. It was not a chore for her but a joy to open her humble home and her heart to others. I miss those days. I miss my dear mom and her hospitality.

All of a sudden I have a strong urge to prepare a “New England Boiled Dinner.” This Sunday I think I will. Hopefully we will have folks over too. I hope you will join me in preparing this delicious and comforting meal. If only my beloved mom could join us.  Here’s the recipe.

New England Boiled Dinner:     
4 pound corned beef roast
4 quarts cold water
3 large onions
2 large turnips
1 medium size head of cabbage
5 large carrots
5 potatoes

Rinse the roast in cold water. Peel the potatoes, carrots turnips, and onions and cut them and cabbage into quarters. Cover the beef with the water, bring to a boil, and drain. Discard this water, which will be very salty. Cover the meat again with four more quarts of water and let it simmer until tender (several hours). Add vegetables the last 30 minuets or so and cook until tender. Remove the vegetables from the broth with a slotted spoon and place on a large platter with the meat in the middle. This will prevent the vegetables from getting soggy. You can butter the vegetables if you want and add some nice fresh ground pepper. I like to put on some nice music while I cook but it should be just as good without it.

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