As this year of blogging has gone by, I find what I most enjoy in blogging is really akin to cooking. Mix a bit of this with a bit of that, stir in a couple other ingredients, cook it a bit, and see what comes out! Now, I could have used the analogy of weaving—blogging is like weaving a fabric: select these yarns, mix with other colors, etc. But that would have been silly, since I really do want to write about cooking.
The first recollections I have of doing anything with cooking were in the kitchen at Matopo Mission. We had an honest-to-goodness wood cookstove there. While I didn’t really do much cooking, I did help my mother and sometime the African house girls with some chores. But I always enjoyed telling people I learned to cook on a wood cookstove! (Here’s a scary aside—when I went looking for an image of such a stove on the Internet, one site that came back was called End Times, a group that is preparing for apocalyptic living when all of civilization breaks down—well, it is comforting to know that I will know how to cook then.)
Photo of wood cookstove from
The next phase of learning the joy of cooking came from the aunt I lived with during my parents’ time in Africa, while I stayed in the US. My aunt was an excellent cook, and specialized in pastries. She made the best pie dough, and taught me how—although I am not sure that is quite accurate for two reasons: 1) my mother was also an excellent pie maker, and I am sure I learned some tricks from her, and 2) making pie dough is something you can just do or not! This aunt also taught me how to make Scottish shortbread, which has become a family tradition for Christmas time. I make batches of shortbread and give them to my children, to my dad and step-mom, to friends, and I mail them to my brother and to my sister.
My learning to cook took a giant leap forwards when I landed what was then the highest paying student job on campus when I was a college student—I was the weekend cook. I attended what was at that time a very small college—since many students went away on weekends, there were usually not more that 200 students on campus for weekends. But, I was in charge of planning and preparing three meals on Saturday and three meals on Sunday. Oh my! Cooking in quantity is a different kettle of fish—hmmm, perhaps I should not use food sayings. All I really remember from this year is being dead tired on weekends, and always smelling like cooking oil. Yecchhh!! Since those days, I have never again had to cook for 200 people—thankfully.
As my children were growing up, I tried to make sure they had some rudimentary cooking skills. It wasn’t important to me for either of them to be gourmet cooks, but it was important to make sure they could survive by preparing their own food, if they needed to. One summer, when my son was staying home on his own for the first time, he called me at work and asked—Mom, can I make myself some eggs for breakfast? Sure, I said and hung up. A bit later, the phone rang and it was him again. Mom, what kind of pan should I use? I suggested the small frying pan. OK—and he hung up. A little bit later, the phone—Mom, how do you cook eggs? I think I suggested scrambling them. He must have learned something as he enjoys cooking now.
I recall one time when my son and daughter in law were visiting, I suggested going shopping. My daughter, at that time a young teen, was going along and wanted to know where we would go. I suggested a kitchen store. My daughter thought that sounded incredibly boring—and of course it was for her. But I just replied (wisely) —just wait until you have your own place; you will enjoy going to kitchen stores. Fast forward about 10 years, and she was setting up her own studio apartment in Manhattan, and we had fun provisioning her first kitchen. She is (I hasten to add) an excellent cook—as far as I am concerned, she has surpassed my cooking abilities!
When it comes right down to it, I am a simple cook—nothing fancy, nothing exotic. How could it be else when I come out of a Pennsylvania Dutch background, and married a man with like background? Even so, I am still a sucker for a kitchen store. When we would visit our daughter (and her fiancé) when they were in New York City, we loved going to Zabars! And when we visit our son and his wife in Pittsburgh, we love to go to the Strip where there is a wonderful kitchen store and many food vendors.
I have two favorite kitchen items that come from such trips—a mixing bowl with a handle, and a set of mini-prep dishes. I can’t imagine cooking without these items.
Here's to the NEXT year of blogging! Cheers!
Donna’s Recipe for blogging
1 personal activity
1 childhood recollection
1 treasured memory
1 or 2 references to family
A sprinkling of self-deprecation (if that is not available self-promotion may be substituted)
Several well selected photographs
Mix all these together. Set aside for a while. Run a grammar and spell check.
Wait for compliments, if any.