My mother used to bake birthday cakes from scratch, almost every day she made a loaf of bread and she would make wonderful dinner rolls every weekend. Then something happened in her life that caused her to stop baking. I wish I knew what it was that caused her so much pain. Honestly, most of our meals were pretty awful, but she still made really good Sunday dinners. Her Pot Roast, and Baked Chicken were marvels. Then there were the vegetables. Mom came from the school of thought that insisted vegetables be boiled to death, and then just a bit further.
Most weekday meals were horrid. Often, dinner was a TV dinner in front of the television. But it got worse. The meal that caused me and my brother the most distress was a glop mom concocted out of SPAM, Minute Rice and Cream of Mushroom soup. This would be paired with canned green beans that had been boiled for at least 20 minutes. Don’t get me wrong. We loved our mom, and appreciated what she did for us. She may have stopped caring about the food she made, but she never stopped caring for us. At our house food had become fuel only, except for Sunday dinners.
I credit my Grandma Bennetta for inspiring me to learn to cook. She always had patience dealing with me underfoot. She had a sweet tooth and she and I would make Ginger Snaps, and Krum Kake and all sorts of wonderful cookies. She also enjoyed an adult beverage or two, and she tasked me at a very young age to learn to make her favored high ball, Bourbon and ginger ale. I got scolded once when I was a bit light on the adult part of the beverage. That little fella with the squinchy face in the photo with Grandma is probably my big brother.
My dad showed me how to fry oysters and pan fry venison, grouse and pheasant. But it really wasn’t until a group of slightly nerdy teens got together in high school, and decided that dinner parties were cool, that I started to see food as it truly is. It is community, and unity, and godliness.
When I make a meal for my family, I am nurturing them both physically and spiritually. And when I make meals to freeze at my church, I am blessing the recipient. They know that people care about them. And when I learn a new technique, or flavor combination, or practice a new cuisine, I am connected to those people that use those things. Cooking is truly remarkable when you think about it. This is why I want to learn to cook.
In case you are wondering about the photo of the building on this blog site, in the header of the theme I am using, it is the main building of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York. No. I didn’t attend. Sometimes life sucks.