Our mom wasn’t a good cook, except for pot roast on Sunday. She passed off her skills to my brothers and sister and me; we learned the basics of boiling water and peeling potatoes. Walt improved to be a good cook and Jan is a mighty fine cook. Walt never turns down her invitation to stay for supper.
My divorce coincided with Jan moving in, back in 1973. The events were totally unrelated; the timing serendipitous. I don’t like cooking. It was difficult enough to pare my skills from cooking for six to cooking for two when I was married. I couldn’t grasp cooking better, too, although my mother-in-law dropped helpful hints. She was a wonderful woman, and very tactful, but I was a poor absorber.
I think the cooking initially devolved to Jan because she left work at 4:30, half an hour before me. So, she started the evening meal. Coming home to dinner on the table, I knew my life was changing for the better.
Beth and Shelly were little girls when Jan came to live with us. Six and eight. Latchkey kids. The hardest part of divorcing. Although I’ve heard some fine stories from them since of how they worked around forgetting their key. That reminds me of a lost key story. The standing rule was empty your pockets before your clothes go in the laundry basket. Our dryer had gap between the drum and the frame; if a metal object slipped though it shorted the heating coil and the dryer didn’t dry. The first time some kid pocket object shorted the dryer, the repair was on mom. The second time I charged it to Shelly, whose scissors were presented by our repair man. The bill hung on the fridge and her half her weekly allowance deducted for a long time. The last time the dryer quit both girls hung over the repair man in the laundry room. Who was going to be nailed. Way upstairs I still heard Shelly shouting “It’s your key! It’s your key!”
When the girls had another year or two under their belts, Jan put them in front of the stove. I think they were quite willing to learn, another rule was the cook didn’t have to wash dishes. When Jan went back home to live in 1976, I had two good cooks in the house. I was in pig heaven. When Beth went off to college I still had one good cook in the house. But only for another two years. Then I was on my own.
I learned to make several dishes that I include in the Family Recipe book that has gone to all new brides in the family. Bread Sandwich: fold a slice of bread in half. Cheese Sandwich: put in a slice of cheese before you fold the bread in half. Tomato Sandwich: (I lived on these all summer, from the garden, with other greens tucked in.) Everybody knows how to make their favorite tomato sandwich, so I won’t go into that.
Here’s what I ate all week. Fill the copper bottomed Revere-ware pot my mother-in-law gave me with water and bring to a boil. Add one bag of noodles, preferably home made style and cook until done. Pour noodles into drainer. Back in the pot put one stick butter. When melted add one can corn, one can lima beans, one can tomatoes. When it’s all hot, add back noodles. Mix well. Eat some for supper. Eat some more for supper the rest of the week. Find a date for the weekend, or go to your mother’s for supper.
Our cook has some of her art collection on a wall in the kitchen. The two on the right are water colors by Ned Obeck. Jan loves his subjects. The lower one is "The Cookerer." Above that, "Ice Cream." The batik in the middle is by Paula Mae Green, "Blue Heron." We have a heron rookerie not far from us. It will be bustling soon. Under the "Blue Heron," a little calligraphy I picked up. I cannot remember the artist or read her name. The print on the left, "Woodland Chicadees, 1994," a print by V.J. Shumaker-Pallen.