Mom’s Meatballs

My mother has always been an excellent cook. It’s a blessing, of course, because the food is so delicious—but also a curse. I live in South Korea, and on more than one occasion when I came back from vacation at my parents’ house in Wisconsin, coworkers of mine—including my principal—greeted me by loudly saying, “Danny, welcome back! You gained weight, right?” The bigger curse, though, is that when my mom makes a good dinner, anyone who ate it will have to endure her progressively obnoxious bragging about it until at least the next full moon.

At first, though, this boasting often begins subtly, like it did one night last summer, when she made a particularly mouthwatering meal. There were beef tips so tender the meat almost fell off your fork, ruby red potatoes slathered in butter, a bowl of peas bigger than my head. She even had a cherry pie cooling on the counter. After we took our plates to the living room and plopped down in front of the TV, neither of us talked for a full minute as we chowed down.

As I knew she would, however, my mother soon broke the silence to provide me with background information about the main course, the beef tips. “See, they usually only serve these at weddings. I’m making them now though,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, as if this fact was no big deal.

“I don’t know if you need salt,” she broke in ten seconds later. “I’ve heard my tips are pretty good without salt but go ahead. Eat them however you want. They’ll be good either way.”

“Yeah, they’re good like this,” I said.

“You should call your sister and tell her what you’re eating,” she said a moment later, chuckling as she imagined the prospect. “She’ll probably get all mad! She’ll say, ‘You never make those when I’m home!’”

By the time she began putting the leftovers in the refrigerator, the success of the meal had gone to her head so thoroughly that she was prancing around the kitchen doing a little jig. “How do you like those tips, Danny? Can you handle that? Can you hondle thot?” For some inexplicable reason, she had begun to pronounce her vowels like she was Arnold Schwarzenegger. I asked her what she thought she was doing, but by that time she wasn’t even waiting for me to respond. “I don’t think you con hondle thot, con you?”

This needed to stop – that much was clear. At that point, I made a conscious decision not to say another word about the beef tips, or any of her other food, desperate to put an end to this madness. After several minutes passed without her mentioning the meal, I thought my plan had worked. But as I was staring at the TV, I suddenly heard the words, “Fifteen bucks.” I slowly turned my head. “That is how much those beef tips cost.” When I expressed the obligatory shock, she said, “Well, Danny, they are usually only served at weddings.”

In a way, I can understand her excessive behavior. Again: I live in Korea. My sister lives in Oregon—an ocean closer, but still quite a hike from Wisconsin. Our mom gets to stuff us with her food—and cruise for compliments about it like this—only so often. Still, though, even if your kids live on Mars, when you start referring to yourself in the third person, as she started to do next, to me, you’ve clearly crossed the line.

“So what do you want tomorrow, Danny? Your sister likes your mom’s meatballs. They’re not easy, but she’ll make them for you,” she said, rubbing her hands together, still in her stride. “They aren’t served at weddings, but I bet if your mom made them, they could be.”  

Photo by Marie G. on Unsplash.

Danny Spatchek

Danny Spatchek was born and raised in Wisconsin. He lives in South Korea, where he has taught high school English for the past 10 years.