Mom’s Scratch Cooking—Growing up, mom made everything from scratch. She baked her own homemade bread, made homemade noodles, and stretched a chicken into several meals for a family of nine. I can still smell the bread baking and remember fighting with my siblings over who would get the steaming hot crust of wheat bread slathered with butter and honey. It was a regular occurrence for this heavenly aroma to greet me upon opening the front door of my home after school. I thought everyone cooked from a cupboard filled with basic ingredients; flour, sugar, salt, spices, and the like. We children took turns helping mom with dinner prep and then everyone sat down to eat, visit and connect over dinner each evening. This created a lasting impression and I did much the same for my children as they were growing up.
Dad’s Design Strategy—When I was about 10 years old, we were having company for dinner and my assignment was to fill the 6 segments of our ceramic lazy susan with different cut vegetables. When I had each section carefully loaded Dad inquired, “What is wrong with it?” Baffled I replied, “I don’t know.” Then he deftly changed the order of the compartments so the colors and textures were set off against each other, carrots next to broccoli, celery next to radishes. It instantly came alive and also made an impression on me about presentation. And this was way before ‘we eat with our eyes’ was popularized. All my life I have given attention to presentation, design and variety of food and that’s half the fun.
Dad and Mom on Acquired Taste—Creating a united front, Dad and mom were passionate about the family value of eating what you were served. Most of this grew out of the need for economy, stretching food dollars as taunt as a high wire tight rope. But they also believed in teaching children to eat a wide variety of food. The rule was that you must at least taste what is prepared. The result was learning to love a wide variety of food and no fear of trying new dishes. This strategy was a solid investment for two reasons. When invited as a dinner guest, you don’t have a laundry list of things you don’t want to eat. And we children have all traveled widely and lived all over the United States and abroad. Since eating happens multiple times a day, it becomes a pleasure to enjoy various and sundry cuisines, food options and preparations. Tasting new foods is an adventure to relish and enjoy. This is a family value I continued with my children.
Three Course Dinner—When I was 8 years old my parents and siblings were gone for a few hours. (Doubt people leave 8 year-olds home alone these days.) I told my mom I would cook dinner for them to eat when they returned. I set out to make a 3 course meal. For the starter, I tossed together a garden salad. For the main course I broiled some t-bone steak, baked potatoes, and cooked chocolate pudding for dessert. I used our lazy susan for crisp raw veggies. I didn’t have enough variety to fill all the sections so I found some cheddar cheese and cubed a whole pound to fill the last section. When my parents came home they were pretty surprised I had made such an elaborate dinner by myself. They gave me lots of compliments and it turned out pretty well all and all. Looking back, they were probably grateful I didn’t burn the house down. The next day, mom was gracious enough to cook up a pot of Macaroni and Cheese with all the cubed cheddar left over. She didn’t even mention I over estimated the cheese by a good bit.