Monday, June 4, 2018

Around the Kitchen Table #bookgiveaway

June always makes me think of weddings. Which makes me think of new beginnings. What was the first thing you cooked—either when you first got married, first moved in with your significant other, or first moved out of your parents’ home and into the first place you were on your own?


DENISE My mother was a tyrant in the kitchen and I was never allowed anywhere near her stove or oven. And in college I lived in a dorm/sorority house the entire four years. So when I got married, I had literally never cooked a meal before. My first attempt was a frozen pizza. I carefully followed the instructions. I preheated the oven, took off the plastic wrapping, placed the pizza on the oven rack, and set the timer. Twenty minutes later, when the timer went off, I hurried into the kitchen to find the whole room filled with smoke. The instructions hadn’t mentioned discarding the cardboard circle under the pizza!


LESLIE: Oh, Denise, that's hilarious! I have no idea what I first cooked in my first apartment, a sparsely furnished one bedroom on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle. For Christmas, my brother and sister-in-law gave me a box full of serving spoons, spatulas, and other kitchen utensils I could not have afforded to buy for myself -- or known that I needed! I still have the meat fork and turkey baster.

One of my college pals still raves about a souffle I made her in that tiny avocado green kitchen. I can't imagine my 21-year-old self making her a souffle -- I've only made a handful in the decades since -- but she swears it was spinach and cheese and terrific. On most things, I'll vouch for my memory, but on this one, I'll go with hers!


SHEILA:  My mother cooked out of necessity, not because she liked it. She was more than happy when I could take over some of the chores. She was a "working woman" in the sixties, so the first thing I learned to cook was oven-roasted chicken (put chicken pieces in a pan, add salt and pepper, put a dab of butter on each piece, cook in a 350 degree oven for about an hour, or until Mother came home).

Next came a Thanksgiving turkey. My senior year in high school I wanted to go to the Big Game with the family. My mother whined that she had to stay home and prepare the turkey. I said, no problem--I'll do it. So I did, and we all went to the game. And the turkey turned out fine.

So I knew how to cook long before I left home. But the first "independent" meal was yet another Thanksgiving turkey. I was living in a college dorm that happened to include one (segregated!) wing of guys. A lot of people couldn't get home for a short holiday, so once again I volunteered to make a turkey dinner--in the tiny kitchenette on my floor of the dorm. I must have scrounged all the pots and pans and utensils because there were few around. But nobody complained! We had a fine dinner.


DARYL: Denise, my mother had your experience. Her mother wasn't a tyrant, but she did all the cooking, so my mother didn't have a clue how to cook when she graduated college. I have lovely letters from her to her grandmother boasting about the meatloaf and Jell-o salad she made all by herself.  I, on the other hand, cooked a lot as a girl. I loved to bake, too. And I catered a few parties during college. [Appetizers were my forté.] So cooking wasn't foreign to me when I graduated college. But "entertaining" was. I remember moving into my apartment in Santa Monica and immediately buying a wok...which I still have.  I then invited over  four friends, and we had stir fry and homemade won tons. They were so impressed. I was a wreck by the end of the night because I really wanted it to go smoothly. A few sips of wine helped ease the tension. Okay, maybe more than a few sips. LOL


LUCY BURDETTE: My mother worked too, and raised four kids, and did not love to cook. So we didn't bother her in the kitchen when she was preparing meals--and the meals were simple, and sad to say, often cooked to death. So as I left home, I had no idea how to cook!

The first dinner I remember making was spaghetti sauce from the Joy of Cooking, for a guy I was trying to impress. That may have been the only time I saw him, though I've made hundreds of recipes of spaghetti sauce since then.

To win John's heart, I had an accomplished friend/cook help me prepare a rack of lamb, his favorite. The recipe must have been a success because we just celebrated 26 years of marriage. Sadly, from his perspective anyway, I really don't like lamb so I've never made it again!


PEG: My mother was a good cook although most of the time my father wanted only meat and a salad for dinner (he was doing low carb before it was popular which is probably why he stayed so thin.)  But he did love some of the German and Hungarian recipes my mother learned from her mother.

Every Christmas when I came home from college, my grandmother enlisted my help in making a fruit cake recipe she cut out of the NY Daily News.  NO ONE liked fruit cake, but that didn't stop us! I loved spending that time with my grandmother.

I got married right out of college and moved into my first apartment with my husband.  Neither of us really knew how to cook but boy could we follow directions! We got a Make It Now Bake It Later cookbook as a wedding gift and one of our favorite recipes was a casserole that included ground beef, shell shaped pasta, tomato sauce and lots of grated cheddar cheese.  We eventually graduated to Julia Child's cookbooks and much better meals!


LINDA: It sounds like there were a lot of mothers who cooked because they had to. Add mine to that list. What a funny story, Denise. I can't remember back that far! But I do remember what my sister gave me as a Bridal Shower gift. A hardcover copy of Craig Claiborne's KITCHEN PRIMER, published 1969. She knew me so well! I still have it in fact, minus the dust jacket. The most stained page is the Measurement Conversion. I've even added, in pen, the Metrics when Canada converted. What a lifesaver! The recipe I have used the most (and you'd think I would have memorized it very quickly) was for Poached Fish. Those pages have many memorable stains on them, also.


KRISTA: My mom was an amazing cook who watched Julia Child and bought all her books. I baked occasionally but I never prepared a meal. I remember my dad, who was very old school in some ways, telling my mom that she had to let me cook or I would never learn. The lovely thing about my dad was that no matter how badly I mangled a dish—even if it was burned—he raved about it to encourage me. I don't recall the first meal I prepared for others on my own, but I do remember making a lot of beef Stroganoff in my first apartment. I bought a paperback cookbook (it may have been James Beard) and that recipe seemed appropriate for company and easy enough to prepare.

CLEO: Krista, your dad was clearly a wonderful man! As for my own life, I grew up in a big Italian family, so my cooking and baking started early. My absolute earliest memory was not in an adult kitchen but with a toy many of you may remember: the Easy-Bake Oven by Kenner.
Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons Bradross63  

I had the Easy-Bake Oven on the left. ~ Cleo
Strange but true: The early models used incandescent light bulbs to heat and cook the food, and I got such a kick out of that! My earliest memory was baking the little chocolate cake. The batter came in powder form, and I remember mixing in the water in a little plastic bowl with a tiny plastic spoon and pouring it into the little metal cake pan. I really loved that oven!  💗


How about you?  

What was your first attempt at cooking?

Join our discussion in the comments to enter our giveaway! 

One lucky person will win:

A signed copy of AS THE CHRISTMAS COOKIE CRUMBLES, the 5th Food Lovers' Village Mystery, by Leslie Budewitz (Midnight Ink, June 8)

A signed trade paperback copy of A DEADLY ÉCLAIR, the 1st French Bistro Mystery, by Daryl Wood Gerber (Crooked Lane Books, June 12)

A signed hardcover copy of THE DIVA COOKS UP A STORM by Krista Davis. (Kensington)


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