At the age of 6, I was doing dishes and cooking meals on my own. Yes, looking at my young nieces and nephews now, I agree that 6 years old is quite young to be doing such tasks, but I didn’t feel like a kid at that age. Mom was a single mother of three at that time and so we all had to pitch in and I can honestly say that today, I’m so grateful that she did.
Children cooking photo c/o www.umbriacooks4u.com
I’ll never forget the first thing I ever cooked—Kraft Macaroni and Cheese. I was looking forward to surprising Mom when she came downstairs.
I had the table all set like a fancy restaurant. (At least I thought it was fancy with a fork, knife, spoon and even a napkin placed by the plate and cup.) Unfortunately, I failed to read and comprehend all of the instructions on the box. I did not know that you were supposed to drain the macaroni prior to adding the milk, butter, and cheese packet. That was some kind of nasty dinner that night! (I can still remember that awful “soup” to this day!) But I have to say that at least I learned the importance of reading the entire recipe prior to trying to cook something. The very next day I got back into the kitchen. With the magical imagination that a six year old is known for, I was committed and convinced that I would open up a cookbook, and land right on the recipe that the kitchen fairies wanted me to conquer that day. As the fairy dust, (flour) fell all around me, I felt downright giddy while I made a beautiful Pineapple Upside Down Cake.
Mom had an elderly friend over to help with some house repairs that night. I was shocked that she offered to “thank him” by providing him with some of the cake that I had just made. He bravely tried a bit of this 6 year-old’s culinary effort. He ate the entire serving, knelt down and looked at me, and told me that that it was the best Pineapple Upside Down Cake he had ever had. I don’t know if he was being nice or if he was sincere, but that night I was 100% hooked on the praise that came from cooking well for others. Since that time I have been quite fearless of cooking, trying all sorts of fancy schmancy recipes. In fact, I realized when I got married that I had focused so much on the finer cuisines that I had failed to hone the skills of making the “down home cooking basics” that my husband most enjoys, such as a pot roast and corn on the cob, opting instead to make Coquille St- Jacques Mornay. (Don’t worry. I learned. And my husband no longer starves.) Over the last several decades I have happily found myself in the kitchen. To this day my favorite compliment my father has ever paid me was when he and my step-mother came to eat at my small, inept apartment in Maryland. Not being able to afford taking them out for dinner during their brief visit, I had instead created a Hot and Sour Soup for them from scratch as well as a few other new kitchen experiments. As Dad was half way through the first course he said to me “Honey. This is the best restaurant I have ever enjoyed!” For me, there’s simply no drug or alternative emotion that can take the place of delivering a satisfying meal to others.
In constant pursuit of this emotional high, no gathering for a meal has ever been too big or too important for me to resist. No recipe has been too new or “odd” for me to try out on others—with mixed results, I’m sure. Once I offered to handle the dinner at a wedding reception for some good friends of mine. I poured through cookbooks and decided what I would make—even though I had never tried them previously. Confidently I hauled all of my groceries into the on-site kitchen and whipped up some delicious food. (I make the Swiss Cheese Fondue sauce the same way to this day—YUM!) Somehow, in defiance of common sense, I never managed to botch anything beyond the patient palates of my friends and family. (Although I do have to say that my wheat meat recipes have had to be revised several times.) I even foolishly elected to make my own wedding cake and prep all of the 5 course meal for my own wedding day. (No. I do NOT advise this kind of insanity, folks) In other words, I’m a confident, albeit occasionally reckless cook and I enjoy the satisfaction so much that I simply can’t leave it alone—even when prudence would yell at one to run away.
It seems like where there is good food, there are smiles. When there are tears, there always seems to be a good food to help wash the sadness away. My life feels balanced and orderly when I’m in the kitchen. No matter how you look at it, food is a comfort to us on so many levels--not only for the recipients but for those who prepare it as well. Very few historic events take place throughout the world without the companionship of a fork or a spoon being raised in celebration. Children make connections with their parents based on foods i.e. “nobody makes this dish quite like Mom,” and relationships are taken to the next level of passion through a great meal i.e. “I was hooked the moment I tasted her spaghetti.” Many business deals have been closed over a perfectly cooked steak. And many friendships have been kindled by a shared affinity for a nutritional way of life. Eyes light up as recipes are shared. Heroes are made when “good eats” saunter onto a scene.
Having a Preparedness Pantry makes it so you are never afraid of hearing: "What's for Dinner Mom?" photo c/o www.diabeticlivingonline.com
Because good meals play such a positive role in my life I’m determined to make sure that my access to culinary confidence never comes under threat from the mistakes or beliefs of others. Great memories that are associated with a good meal are too valuable to me to have them just disappear because of an earthquake, food recall, or new government rules on genetically modified seeds supplies. I strive for independence in the area of Food Preparedness not simply so that my family could survive a famine or a long-term unemployment but because I want to make sure that my friends and loved ones still THRIVE in a chaotic event. I truly do believe that I have the ability to ensure that they have access to the same great memories and moments that I’ve enjoyed throughout my life by preparing appropriately now. Knowledge, skills, confidence, and necessary staples and tools of the culinary world will serve me and my family well under all circumstances in the name of Everyday Preparedness. While I cannot accurately anticipate the trials that may be nipping at our heels as we enjoy such moments of memorable meals, I can sure as heck make sure that Trouble is not invited to my dinner table.
That’s it for me today, folks. I’m now going to make up some soup for my father who’s flying in tonight. Hmmm…maybe a Mexican Corn Chowder made from freeze-dried potatoes and corn, some Shirley J’s awesome Universal Sauce and a dash of green chilies. That, served up with some homemade wheat bread, and I just might make another great memory for both of us.
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