I've had an interest in cooking and baking as long as I can remember. Some of my earliest memories are of watching my mom bake bread and dinner rolls. I also remember her scratch made chocolate cakes with chocolate frosting.
Imagine frosting that doesn't come out of a can! Scratch made frosting is sadly, quite the novelty in most homes. I don't remember ever helping mom make bread or cakes or cookies. One Christmas she did let me help decorate sugar cookies. That was fun!
It was my paternal grandmother who really encouraged me to help with baking. I was also her under aged bartender, but that is a different story! Again, it was always Christmas time. I remember standing on a small footstool at
the counter and measuring and mixing for Ginger Snaps. "Don't mix too long or you'll mix the goodness right out of the dough!" This is the woman who taught me to play Canasta and would say, "Don't shuffle the deck so long or you'll shuffle the colors right
off of the cards!" Grandma Bennetta was my friend, and I miss her. She would talk to me as though I were human, not quite adult, but human. She never spoke down to me. And she was so stinking cool! My grandfather died young and left her to raise two boys through
the depression on her own. She owned a small gas station in North West Minnesota. She hunted to put meat on the table and also to chase varmints out of their substantial garden. I remember when she was 80 years old, (her last year hunting) she got 12 grouse
with 12 shots, but one of them she had to chase through the brush because she only winged the little sucker!
Grandma inspired me to force my way into the kitchen and start cooking for my family. Mom and dad always complimented me on the meals I made, but never encouraged me to be in the kitchen. I know. I'm whining. It's so unbecoming
an adult. Mommy and daddy didn't appreciate me. Boo hoo.
And then there was high school. I fell into a group of friends who did dinner parties instead of drugs. What an odd, eclectic, group of people we were. I think my fondest memory, besides the impromptu jam sessions tapping plates
and glasses with our spoons and getting complex rhythms going was the day Ray and I created the "Blob." The Blob was a lasagna we put together in a rather large turkey roasting pan. It was probably a 24" x 18" x 4" pan that was almost overflowing with noodles,
cheese and sauce. As we served it up to our friends, it became apparent to us that the level of the lasagna was not going down. It seemed that it was healing from the massive gouges we were putting into it! And thus the legend of the eternal lasagna was born.
After high school I went to the University of Minnesota and after 3 quarters the Dean of my college wrote me a lovely letter saying that he thought I might want to re-evaluate what I wanted to do with my life. Then he invited
me to not come back to University until after that thought process bore fruit. That process took seven years and nearly took me to a Cook/Chef program at a local Votech.
Once I decided that I couldn't make a decent living without some sort of education, I looked to my passions. I had to be a chef. It was who I was. I went to the Votech (the only cooking school I knew of at the time) and took
a barrage of aptitude tests even though I was only interested in the culinary program. The only instructor who approached me after the testing was done was the instructor who dealt in sheet metal fabrication. He tried to get me to change my path, but I told
him, "I want to cook, I don't want to make boxes!" He had never seen anyone score as high as I had in whatever tests were important to him. I didn't care. I was accepted into the cook/chef program, given my list of things that I needed to purchase, and given
my start date. The night before classes started I had a horrible nightmare that ended with me as a fry cook at the local Sambo's (now Denny's). And that's how I ended up with a degree in Biochemistry and Microbiology.
That is also the source of my greatest regret. I didn't believe in myself. Of all people, I should have been the one to encourage myself, to trust my passion, and to take a risk. There are obvious benefits to having made the
decision I made. I would not have my beautiful children. I would not be married to the most caring, giving, loving woman on the face of the Earth. But I am not a chef, and I never will be. I don't have the stamina to work as a chef. I thought I was going to
pass out from exhaustion after Thanksgiving dinner for 12 people. I can't imagine doing ten times that every day.