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Coming soon to a kitchen near you: my mom

What if every kitchen in America could have an elderly grandmother — a woman who could tell if pie crust was homemade at 75 paces — who popped up virtually in their kitchen to offer sage kitchen wisdom? Now, thanks to this genius idea, they can.

Tammy Swift online column sig revised 3-16-21.jpg
Tammy Swift, Forum columnist.
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THE BLACK HILLS, S.D. — Picture this.

Our family is all staying at a cabin in the Black Hills where we’ve decided to take turns making meals.

Niece Sara and her husband are making biscuits and sausage gravy when Sara hollers out to my mother: “Can we substitute whipped cream for half-and-half?”

Without needing to pause or think about it, my mother responds: “Of course. Just add a little milk to it.”

Later that week, we are sampling caramel rolls from a local eatery. We are all raving about them — except for Mom. She is dissecting the sweet roll’s anatomy like some kind of board-certified surgeon of bakeology. Maybe a carb-iologist.

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“The sugar in the caramel hasn’t been cooked enough,” she says. “You can still feel the slight grittiness in the texture. And the dough is a little heavy. It needed more time to rise.”

We all look at each other. My mom is no longer young or spry enough to single-handedly whip together a feast. But the knowledge in her brain is indispensable. With her cooking know-how, she could save countless newlyweds from disastrous Thanksgivings or non-cooking singles from living solely off Pop-Tarts and ramen noodles. She is like Julia Child, Alton Brown and Google all rolled into one.

What if every kitchen in America could have an elderly grandmother — a woman who could tell if pie crust was homemade at 75 paces — who popped up virtually in their kitchen to offer sage kitchen wisdom?

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She could appear via hologram , I suggested.

“We could call her the Hologrammy,” sister Mabel quipped.

Imagine the possibilities. So all the in-laws are lined up at the table for Thanksgiving dinner but the gravy isn’t thickening? Don’t bother with Siri or Alexa, who are only good at ordering takeout. Call Hologrammy, who will not only show you how to make the proper “cornstarch slurry” to thicken the gravy but will inform you what ratio of drippings and seasonings to add for maximum flavor.

Is your whipped cream failing? Hologrammy can show up to look at the overwhipped mess and tsk: “Are you trying to make butter?” Then she can direct you, step by step, on the proper way to whip, sweeten, flavor and stabilize cream.

She could advise you to test-bake only one cookie if you’re concerned the dough seems a little thin or how to add potatoes if you’re oversalted the soup . She could tell you that the perfect amount of time to soften butter in the microwave is with the power level reduced to “7” and the timer set to 23 seconds per stick.

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Hologrammy would have OI (olfactory intelligence), so she could alert you when that sheet cake smells perfectly done so you don’t have to waste toothpicks. She also could inform you if that only-slightly-expired sour cream may be a tad too sour or if the origin of that strange smell in your refrigerator can be traced to a furry cucumber that somehow got wedged between the crisper drawer and the back of the fridge.

For an extra $299, Hologrammy could be upgraded to include customized info for your particular family. If you asked how many potatoes are needed to feed mashed potatoes for six, she could respond that you’ll need a half-pound of taters per person, plus 3 pounds for son-in-law Rufus because he “never knows when to quit.”

Or, if you’re used to a “tough love” kind of grandma, you could opt for the model that will criticize how you cook the rice, chastise you for burning sugar on the stove burner and announce loudly to guests that the lasagna was made with spaghetti sauce out of a can.

We’ll call that one the Holocrabby.

Tammy has been a storyteller most of her life. Before she learned the alphabet, she told stories by drawing pictures and then dictated the narrative to her ever-patient mother. A graduate of North Dakota State University, she has worked as a Dickinson, N.D., bureau reporter, a Bismarck Tribune feature writer/columnist, a Forum feature reporter, columnist and editor, a writer in NDSU's Publications Services, a marketing/social media specialist, an education associate in public broadcasting and a communications specialist at a nonprofit.
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