Thursday, May 13, 2010


We had just gotten married a few days before and had moved into our tiny basement apartment. Each of us had lived with our parents before marriage and had never experienced living individually on our own. I didn’t know what to expect or what was expected of me.

We ate out or brought take-out home for the first few days, but that was becoming expensive and boring. I wanted to cook and have dinner at home. I just had to figure out how to do it.

My thoughts went from meatloaf, to beef roast, to chicken. They all sounded good, but not only did I not know how to cook them, I wasn’t even sure how to pick out meat at the grocery store. I didn’t know what to buy and if I had known, I would not have known how to cook it.

I had never been in the kitchen when my mother prepared a meal and, and as a result, I didn’t know what to do. Meals in my parents home had somehow appeared like magic.


I reached for the phone and dialed my mother’s number. She was an excellent cook, and not afraid to try something new. But, somehow, she had never taught me how to cook a meal. I knew how to make pull-taffy, divinity, fudge, and cookies galore, even a cake or two with seven-minute frosting and pies. All done from scratch, and all mouth-watering, but nothing that would work for dinner.

My mother laughed at me, but I knew she was happy that she could help. From then on, each time I needed to cook a meal, I called her, told her what I was hungry for and what I wanted to cook. I discovered that it was very important to have not only the right food, but also the right pans and utensils. We had received a lot of useful items at our wedding, but not everything I needed.

After getting the grocery list from my mother I would go to the store, buy the items I needed and take them to my home. I would then call and get her explicit step by step instructions, writing them on 3 x 5 cards, sometimes calling her several times. This went on for possibly a month or until I could cook everything I wanted.


My husband liked my cooking except for one very big mistake. I decided to try something different for Sunday dinner. I assumed that since he had been raised on a farm he would like my choice. I had the meat cooking and as he walked in the door, he covered his face with his hands. I was cooking a lamb shoulder and he could not stand the smell.

I loved lamb. It was a meal my mother made fairly often, so I assumed everyone would love it. Not the case, as I found out. I threw the meat out, opened the windows and aired out the house fixing something else for dinner that did not resemble lamb. After that whenever I had the urge to cook lamb chops or lamb shoulder blades, I did so when I knew my husband would not be home.


My mother is no longer alive, but I have most of the recipes she made and loved. I remember as a little girl helping her add recipes to her many scrap books. I found out later that she had thrown the scrap books away, thinking that since my father was on a low-fat diet she would never again make the food she loved.

Once I had that initial guidance from her, it didn’t take long before I understood all the measurements, oven temperatures and top of stove cooking. I felt confident in getting the best cuts of meat and poultry and picking the best produce.

Cooking became my passion and still is. I love to experiment with flavors and spices. And then there is cooking with yeast. What a wonderful experience, watching the dough rise and eating the homemade bread and yeast rolls. Yes, I continued to make lovely desserts and still made some with my mother as we had done before I married.

As a young mother, I made peach jam and pickled beets with my neighbor and friend. We took the freestone peaches that filled a tree at my house and made and froze peach pies. As a grandma I experimented with different foods for my grandson, mustard squeezed on a slice of American cheese and rolled up. Who needed bread? Eggplant cooked with butter and bread crumbs with a side of pineapple.

Then there were the times I would be at my daughter’s place cooking dinner and everyone would leave the kitchen because I would take over stirring three pots at the same time, and checking the oven and microwave. They would run from the kitchen, laughing and saying, “Look out! Grandmas at it again.”

My second husband liked to cook meats so we would have family and friends to dinner (20 to 30 people). He cooked two or three meats and I prepared all the side dishes. Everyone loved our meals together and on the way out they asked when we would do it again.

Cooking is still a creative outlet for me, a way to get lost in another world.

  • What is your passion?
  • Is there something you want to learn?
  • Do you know someone who can teach you?
  • Memories are made of wonderful life experiences.

1 comment:

  1. I love to cook to JoAnna but there is little need for it living alone. It's too bad but I just don't take much time to cook for myself. However, one of the wonderful things I've been learning here in France is just to cook...without recipes...more with instinct...and whatever is in the fridge. The French seem to do more of this and I'm trying to watch and learn. Sometimes, I really surprise myself!