Monday, November 12, 2012

Now You're Cookin'

Fried bologna on white bread with mustard
I'm pretty sure the first food I learned how to cook for myself was a fried bologna sandwich. I could also heat up a mean can of pork and beans. Sometimes I would even add a hot dog! Kraft Dinner mac and cheese was also a specialty. Once again, I would sometimes add a hot dog as the piece de resistance. I am sad to say, these are the meals I served my new husband when we were first married. I also made shoe leather out of chicken breasts a few times. Don't ask Mike about my legendary "Paprika Chicken" debacle. It wasn't pretty and tasted bad.

I still crave Skyline Chili
I wasn't very concerned at the time. I was a busy teacher, Mike was a busy graduate student and when our paths crossed, we would eat what we could throw together or walk to one of the many restaurants that beckoned. In DeKalb, we loved to go to a little Mexican hole in the wall that was cheap and within walking distance of our apartment. While living in Cincinnati, our favorites were Skyline Chili and a Chinese food  restaurant/storefront dive. The move to Ann Arbor brought about the end of my school teaching career, therefor an end to my salary. (Stupid teacher hiring freeze) I took a job working for a University of Michigan funded day care/preschool. I made minimum wage. Half of my paycheck went toward insurance, which we were lucky to have since that is the year I got pregnant with our first child. We may have gone out to eat once the entire year we lived in Ann Arbor, and that was the time were celebrating Mike and his friends' acceptances into post-doctoral fellowships. We ordered water and a burger. That was when I got a little more interested in cooking real meals. Then we moved to Columbus, Ohio. Mike's salary as a post-doctoral fellow at The Ohio State University was enough to allow us to live in a pretty decent little condo. I no longer worked outside of the home. This is the time we really started to learn how to stretch a dollar. Necessity being the mother of invention and all, I watched cooking shows, read magazines and cookbooks like they were dime store novels and started to pay attention. I made a couple of really great friends who were in the same financial boat as we were, however they had been doing it a couple of years longer than I. We took turns cooking for each other and shared recipes. We made home made baby food and made our own baby wipes. I started to ask a lot of questions when we would visit family in Illinois. I am lucky to have three moms to go to for recipes and cooking advice.

The times have changed so much in the last 20 years. If I had the resources then that we have now, (pinterest, recipes at the touch of a computer key, google) I would have been a slave to my computer. I never would have reached out to other people outside of food blogs and  I would have missed the friendships that formed over the common goal of feeding our growing families on a shoestring budget. I would have missed out on the bonding experiences of asking my mom about her famous chili recipe, having my mother-in-law teach me how to make Mike's favorite risotto, having my father-in-law show me how to make perfect minestrone, watching my step-mom make the best fried chicken you ever tasted and chatting with my dad about how many ways you can cook beans. Not to mention the recipes that Mike and I have tried over the years together.

Cooking together is a great bonding experience. I love cooking with my kids. I like knowing that they will have a good foundation of making real food when they venture out on their own. Aside from the time Stephen tried to heat a can of soup on the stove using a plastic microwave pan, they are pretty competent in the kitchen. We have all made cooking mistakes, some of them pretty memorable and perfect fodder for family ribbing, but that is how we learn! For example, Mary taught us all that olive oil does NOT make good brownies. And one tablespoon of cinnamon is NOT the same as one cup of cinnamon. Honest mistakes!!

Shortbread cookies
creative pie crusts

Clare is always stirring the pot


Cook with your kids. Cook with you friends. Cook with your grandma. It's fun with an added benefit of bonding and you get a good meal or a terrific dessert in the end. Everybody wins.


  1. What a great post! I wish I had people to cook with and for. It will come. I hope your kids enjoy it. You're right about being a slave to the computer where recipes are concerned.

    Cooking really is a shared pleasure! I always had fun trailing my ex-mother-in-law around her kitchen, though I did more drinking than cooking.

    Post another recipe! I can't wait to try the one you just posted. And I can relate to the hot dogs as the premiere ingredient! My mom made a lot of casseroles and, weirdly, a lot of meals that went on top of a piece of white bread. It wasn't until I got married that I found out that almost nobody does that.

    1. Did she ever make "Shit on a Shingle"? I remember thinking that was pretty tasty as a kid. That and Horseshoes are the only thing we ever had on white bread. No, we also ate stew on a slice of white bread.
      Thank you, as always! You are my only commenter! Hahaha!