Every once in awhile, I’ll come across a cookbook called some variation of Recipes from my Mother, and it always makes me giggle. I’m not saying my mother is bad in the kitchen or anything, but here’s a cocktail napkin she handed out at a recent family gathering:

My mother is not bad in the kitchen. In fact, she cleans up as efficiently as anyone I’ve ever seen. But food preparation . . . well, it’s not really her thing. Once she came across a pile of cooking magazines in my house, and she was horrified. “That’s what you read in your free time?” You’d think she’d found a stash of porn.

So it’s kind of surprising — but also kind of not — that my mother has a few really great recipes. She knows how to make them. They are easy. They turn out right every time. People like them. (And if they don’t? She doesn’t want to hear about it.)

I’ve made my mom’s shrimp cocktail recipe a bunch of times, and people are always impressed that I didn’t buy the shrimp pre-cooked. You know how you cook shrimp? You boil it. And then there’s the sauce: four ingredients. And way, way, better than any premade stuff.


1 bag medium frozen, peeled and deveined shrimp

Boil water.

Defrost shrimp under running cold water.

Add shrimp to pot.

Watch pot. It will boil. When it does, reduce heat and cook for one minute. Do not boil too long or the shrimp will be rubbery and people will think you bought them pre-cooked.

Strain & cool (tossing with ice cubes works).


3/4 cup chili sauce (Heinz is best)

2 Tbsp. prepared horseradish

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

3 drops Tabasco

Mix together. (You probably figured that out.)

Serve with funny napkins.