My mother was not very demonstrative. She sided with my teachers in all disputes and didn't hesitate to let me know when I had disappointed her. She didn't hug and kiss us much and I can't recall her ever telling me in words that she loved me. I knew, however, that it was true.
There were plenty of indications of her fondness. She'd lie in the grass on a spring day and watch clouds with me tucked against her side. Or, on a summer night, she'd show me the constellations. She would brush and braid my hair. She'd read to us at night when I was too young to read for myself, with my sister and me tucked on either side of her in her big bed.
Of course, there were less welcome ways of showing her love, too - like correcting my table manners and making me clean my room - but twenty years after she went to heaven, I tend to remember the good times more than the bad.
One of the ways I knew I was loved was that she made oven barbecued spare ribs for me. The whole family ate them but no one loved them as much as I did. I'd come home from school to the heavenly smell of rich pork bubbling away in the oven, redolent of tomato sauce and allspice, and my mouth would begin to water as soon as I came through the door. It was agony waiting for dinner time. When she saw me grinning and looking hungry, she'd smile into my eyes, sharing my delight. I think she had been waiting all day to share that smile with me.
I decided one day last week to try to duplicate her way with spare ribs, although her recipe has been lost. Sadly, today, it's hard to find the kind of rich, meaty, fatty country spare ribs that used to make that recipe so delicious. Today's leaner pork tends to dry out in the oven and never attain quite that unctuous richness that I so loved as a child. However, I got pretty close with my experiment. I didn't measure, just threw in a bit of this and a splash of that until it smelled about as I remembered.
It was good over rice but it was best the next day in a pulled pork sandwich. I had tried some of those very thin buns that they sell in store now and that was less that wonderful - next time, I'll use Chilebrown's recipe - but the filling was full of sweet, soft onions, tender pork and memory-inducing sauce, laced with mother love.
How does your mother show her love? Or is she one who actually tells you?
Oven Barbecued Pork Spare Ribs
I didn't measure the ingredients, so this is very approximate; that gives you absolute freedom to tweak the recipe to your own taste. I browned the meat in a pan, added the onion and garlic to soften, deglazed, then put that and all the rest of the ingredients in the crock pot for several hours on "high," until it was so tender that it fell apart.
Apple cider vinegar, perhaps 1/4 cup
balsamic vinegar, a generous splash
lemon juice of half a lemon
soy sauce, a generous splash
tomato sauce, one small can
tomato paste, a big squeeze out of the tube, mixed in with the tomato sauce
Sartain's marinade, just had about 1/4 of a cup left, so I used that, then added some water to the bottle and shook it to get the rest and to add a little liquid to the pot.
powdered ginger, perhaps two teaspoons
allspice, one teaspoon and a dash more
garlic, four or five cloves, roughly chopped
onion, one medium, sliced lengthwise through the root to make spears
The first night, I served it over rice. The next day, I pulled the pork apart for the sandwich, adding just a little lettuce and a scrape of mayo laced with a light squeeze of lemon juice to keep the bun from getting soggy.