Friday, July 20, 2007

The Joy of Cooking

From the title of this post, you might not realize that this is intended to celebrate my one year anniversary of blogging. (Drumroll heard distantly in the background!) But it is. Exactly one year ago today, we had just returned from our vacation in Spain, Portugal and Morocco. Since I had for the past ten years written a travelogue of our trips and accompanied those with photographs, it seemed like a natural: combine something I am already doing with a new medium. Hence my first five blogs were about that trip.

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 fiancĂ©) 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.

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.

Serve liberally.

Wait for compliments, if any.

Here's to the NEXT year of blogging! Cheers!


Unknown said...

Happy Blogiversary! It's working for you! Love the way you wrap all your posts together with all those ingredients! Awesome!

Climenheise said...

I've enjoyed a year of blogs. Here's to the next year!

By the way, I always thought that the stove at Matopo was a coal stove. not that I ever did anything with it, being only nine when we left Matopo. But my memory said coal -- put out once or twice a year for cleaning and kept on the rst of the time. But my memory for things that I don't know anything about is even less reliable than usual. Are you sure about the wood? Better ask Dad.

Mary said...

Happy Blogiversary, Donna! I met you in January and have enjoyed every post you've cooked up.

You are so clever. The list of blogging ingredients is right on!

Here's to many more years of getting to know you!

Hugs from Mary

RuthieJ said...

Hi Donna,
Congratulations on 1 year of blogging! I wish you many more.

Those orange mixing bowls are so pretty. And the blue/white glass bowl with handle & spout--is it an antique? I have one like that in Tupperware, but have never seen on in glass. Cooking is much more fun when you have good utensils.

Mary C said...

Congratulations, Donna, on your blogiversary. I had to chuckle about your son calling you for directions to cook eggs. I had a similar experience with my daughter when she was living away from home. And I really loved your recipe for blogging.

KGMom said...

Thanks to all who have wished me well & another year of blogging.

Liza Lee--maybe it shows, but I love Garrison Keilor's ability to weave and weave a story until all the strands converge. That's my aim.

Daryl--Dad hasn't weighed in yet, so I don't know if it was wood or coal. Frankly, I just remember the stove, not the fuel.

Mary--thanks. You certainly know the joy of blogging (and also the frustrations at times).

Ruthie J--actually the bowl with handle is not an antique--it came from a store in the Strip in Pittsburgh. It is modeled on old style bowls, though. I think it is ceramic, not glass.

Marcy C--don't these amusing stories from our children's growing up years make great blog stories?

LauraHinNJ said...

Love your recipe and hope you'll continue to serve up delicious tidbits!


Elaine Cougler Author said...

Thanks for a good read, kgmom. Your eclectic groupings of topics never cease to interest and stimulate me. A chuckle here, a pic there--all is appetizing. (note the food ref.!)

Pam said...

Congrats, Donna. You serve up a wonderful mix of dishes!

Beth said...

Happy anniversary - glad to have found you partway through your first year!!!

Anonymous said...

I have arrived at your blog anniversary party a bit late Donna but just want to say how much I enjoy your blog and look forward to reading it at the end of my day. When I leave your blog and go home I always feel better and wiser and I have always had a laugh. Thanks so much for blogging for us - you are so special.

Ruth said...

I am so glad I found your blog and have your subscription under "My favourite blogs" in Google reader. You challenge me with your fine writing and interesting topics.

Rhonda said...

Hel-LO??? I have known you for HOW long? And I have never tasted this holiday delicacy known as Scottish shortbread.

I am feeling rather slighted.

BTW--Happy Blogging Anniversary!