When Linda Moody called recently and asked me for some of my mother’s favorite recipes, I had a hard time thinking what to give her. My mother was an excellent cook, but I really didn’t learn to cook on her range.
Mother told me about my first attempts in the cooking department. I was about 10 or 12 years old and decided I was hungry for chili. She told me that it was easy to make and I could do it.
She gave me verbal directions and went outside to chat with our neighbor. I made several trips outside, interrupting her chat, to ask for more explanation.
Finally, I sent my little brother out to ask her how much chili powder to use. Her reply, “Just a dash,” inspired me to tell my brother, “Tell her she can just dash in here and show me how much a dash is!”
Apparently he dramatized my words somewhat causing my mother to dash right in, finish the chili, and then finish me.
After that I guess I decided there wasn’t much point in learning to cook when I lived with one of the greatest cooks in the county.
I did learn to make cheeseburgers when I was in high school because Mother didn’t make them. My brother was very fond of cheeseburgers, so when Mom and Dad went out of town, that’s what I fed him.
When they got home that traitor complained that I was a great cook if all he wanted to eat was cheeseburgers. I apparently decided there was no point in learning to cook if it wasn’t going to be appreciated.
So when Bill and I got married, both my mother and his mother gave me cookbooks.
As I recall, the biggest problem was getting all the food done at the same time. Eventually I mastered that by learning not to cook everything on the highest heat. But for a while, I treated Bill like a Greek God. I gave him lots of burnt offerings.
One of my earliest disasters was chili. I cut the recipe in half all the way to the chili powder. For some reason I doubled that, and even served a bowl of it to our landlady. I was doing Tex-Mex before it was in style.
My first cherry pie was a sight to behold. I followed the recipe in every detail. I even cut little hatchets out of dough to decorate the top. Unfortunately I cooked it too close to the heating element and it came out looking like a pizza.
I was so naïve I took it to a family carry-in dinner. My brother-in-law thought it was hilarious. That’s how I learned that when you mess up something you dump it out and swear you never tried it.
Somehow, during the course of raising our eight children, I turned into a fair “dash of this and dash of that cook”, probably because I would start the recipe before checking to see if I had all the ingredients.
There is one other thing I accomplished in the culinary field that my mother didn’t.
I taught all eight of our kids, boys and girls, together, how to cook. Now when I want one of my favorite recipes, I call one of my kids and ask them to make it for me.
EDS NOTE: This column was first published in the Greenville Advocate May 13, 1998.