I've been cooking since I was 10 years old. Mama went to work that year and my oldest sister couldn't get the hang of cooking. She managed to burn everything she tried to cook that first week; fried potatoes, green beans, pork chops, even boiled eggs (which exploded quite spectacularly)! After the forth or fifth kitchen fire that we had to put out...mama decided that I should try. Since I had a habit of hanging out in the kitchens of my grannys whenever I got a chance, I guess she thought I couldn't do too much worse. So there I was, a chubby ten-year old with a towel tied around me and a wooden spoon. But I had been paying attention, and it turned out that I could cook. Simple stuff to begin with, like beans & franks with corn muffins. And I burned a thing or two as I started out, but I got better at it because I really liked cooking. So here I am, 40 or so years later, still cooking and still enjoying it.
My favorite things to cook
I love Southern food, but try to moderate some of our "Southern-fried" goodness, so that I keep the flavor, not the fat. And I love anything Tex-Mex, especially chili in all of its wonderful incarnations (or without the 'carne' so to speak). My Dad was in the Navy, so we traveled from base to base and picked up a variety of eating habits/tastes. Mama, a native Virginian, learned to cook Chinese, Polynesian, Italian, German, Caribbean & Cuban dishes from the seamen and their wives who were stationed on those far-flung bases. By the time I was in my teen's, I was experimenting with Swedish Kottbullar (meatballs), Beef Stroganoff, Chicken & Dumplings (Granny Bessie's specialty), Crackling Cornbread (Grandma Hawks' best in the world), Lemon Pound Cake, Coconut Custard Pie (Daddy's favorite), Peach Ice Cream (Mama's favorite) & Sunday Fried Chicken with Cream Gravy & Buttermilk Biscuits.
My favorite family cooking traditions
We have big family parties to celebrate birthdays, graduations, holidays, you name the occasion and we will find a reason to cook and have a party! Depending on the weather our parties are held either indoors, at my home, or at church (and occasionally we have to rent the Ruritan building to hold us all!); or we go outdoors to my backyard, under the pergola...or up the mountain to Cumberland Knob for a day of picnicing, ballplaying, talking, comparing children & grandbabies and catching up on family gossip...I mean family news! If I cook, then my daughter and I plan out a menu that might include anything from slow roast/smoked pork, grilled corn on the cob, confetti slaw, calico baked beans, sliced heirloom tomatoes & Vidalia onions (I grow a variety of tomatoes & veggies), herbed garlic bread & blueberry-peach cobbler for dessert. When we all cook, then it is pot luck; a lot of casseroles, garden-fresh veggies and store bought fried chicken plus plenty of desserts! My cousins & I are
My cooking triumphs
The time I won a "Blue ribbon' for corn muffins in the 5th grade for my 4H project. (Yep, it was the year I started cooking at home.) Later on, when my children were small (Doug 32, Jerry 30, Emillie 28, Michael 24) I took a class in cake decorating because I wanted to be able to make fancy birthday cakes. I couldn't afford to buy them from the bakery, but I could bake them & decorate them myself...so I learned how to do it. They always liked their 'crazy cakes', because I usually freehand decorated them. If they wanted Mickey Mouse, I drew Mickey Mouse (not from a stencil); and later it was Transformers, Superman, Strawberry Shortcake and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (even my daughter liked them). Then one of my sisters got the bright idea that I could decorate a wedding cake for her second marriage...she talked me into it...so I ended up doing not only her wedding cake but two other sisters and three of my children's cakes too. That first wedding cake was very well recieved. We had p
My cooking tragedies
It took me a long time to get the hang of making yeast bread. I kept making it and making it, but got pitiful results. I made big bowlfuls of dough and had them sit, sour and flat, barely rising above their original depth, to be baked into dense bricks of floury, dull tastelessness. So I would try again and get dry, crumbling airy crusts with holes all through them. so big that you couldn't even butter a slice. It took me over 10 years to finally get the hang of making good yeast bread.
I found a crabapple tree filled with ripe apple outside the daycare center where my grandson stayed. I asked and was given permission to gather some fruit for preserving. So I washing my bounty and packed them into sterilized jars, then poured in a spiced pickling syrup from a recipe I had been wanting to try. I left the stems on for effect like Marischino cherries, and soon had a canner full of jars boiling away. After the jars had processed, sealed & cooled, I let the age about three weeks like the re