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Learning to Cook

May 30, 2019

Learning to Cook

If I’m to be completely honest, I didn’t really learn to cook until I got married. Since Dick had been living on his own for a couple of years, he probably had more culinary skills than I did. For at least the first year of marriage, I spent a lot of my cooking time with my phone held between my shoulder and ear as I asked directions from Mama.  Even when I had recipes, I had to figure out how to make all the dishes come out ready to serve at the same time.

I’m sure Mama did her best to teach us how to cook. With five of us around though, I imagine sometimes it was easier to do it herself than to coordinate our efforts. I do remember, though, that I had her full support—and full access to the kitchen—when I decide to pursue the Girl Scout cooking badge.

Since our school didn’t have a troop for a while, my friends Elaine, Debbie, and Kathy joined the troop at Wilson High School in Zip City. I’m ashamed to admit that we sometimes had a little bit of a superiority complex. We’d sing “Do Your Ears Hang Low?” with the best of them, and we sang “Make New Friends, But Keep the Old” with sincerity, but we were motivated to go after the more complicated badges just to show off. Admittedly, these girls had more experience with survival skills—farming, canning, horsemanship—than we’d ever achieve. Wanting a full badge sash, though, I decided to try to complete the cooking badge, certain I’d have all the parts checked off in no time.

We were living in the Pamplin Ave. church preacher’s home on Pearl St. at the time. The kitchen was so much smaller than the one I complain about now. I’m sure we were always underfoot as she tried to cook. I can remember how sticky the linoleum floor was after my thirteenth birthday party when we repurposed the fruited ice ring my grandmother had made for my cousin Christy’s wedding. Since our radio sat on the kitchen counter, I first heard “Ode to Billie Joe” in this room. (“Pass the biscuits, please.”)

After working through the preliminary steps for completion of my badge, I was at last ready to present my family with a full meal. If it had gone off without a hitch, I might remember everything on the menu. However, as I placed the salad—individually plated for each family member—I was horrified to see an inchworm measuring out the leaves of one plate.

Ironically, Mama made me toss the whole tossed salad and refused to sign off on the meal. I’d have to try to feed the family another day—with a little less living protein. She probably looked forward to one more meal when she wasn’t fully responsible for feeding all seven of us.

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