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Compliments to the chef

   I love looking up recipes on the internet and trying them out. There are so many great websites. You can try everything from boiling a mean pot of water to saffron-laced portobello-stuffed squid. I’ve tried my share of new culinary delights. Oh, there have been a few duds. Like the spaghetti pie crust filled with spinach and five kinds of cheese. The salt levels rivaled the Atlantic on that one. You know it’s pretty bad when your husband asks you not to make that one again, or if you do, he’ll have a peanut butter sandwich instead. I like to think that my cooking skills have improved over time. And from where they first began, they could only get better.
   Where I grew up outside of St. Louis, Missouri you had mostaccioli, not penne. I tried once to create a creamy red sauce to go with the noodles and it came out the color of fresh cut lavender. I don’t know how it happened but nobody would eat it. Then there was the time I prepared a recipe that came with a new crock pot circa 1982. I believe it was called “cheesy rice balls.” That didn’t turn out so well either.
   Nowadays, I’m only cooking for three so I’ve had to make some adjustments. Whatever I’m cooking, we have to eat for four days so it better be half-way decent. Both of my parents grew up in large families so they used to cook for twelve every meal they made. My mom would say to my dad over a pot of navy beans with ham hocks, “You made enough for an army.”  And everything tasted better the second day.
   These days I get on what you might call a “kick.” I get caught up in trying gluten-free cooking because it is all the rage or I cook vegan because I read it’s good for you. I’ve tried carb-free, dairy-free, gluten-free, sugar-free, fat-free – basically all the “frees” you can try. Most of those kicks could add “taste-free” to their label.
  Now that I’m unemployed, I’m sticking to the cook-whatever-is-on-sale menu. I am also known in my family for being very creative when the cupboards are bare. Some of my biggest hits came when I was Mother Hubbard. I could take an egg, three limp carrots, a piece of bologna and a wrinkled apple and come up with something extraordinary. It’s a gift.
   Lately, cooking has become one of the highlights of my day. I get the frozen meat out first thing in the morning and then at zero sixteen hundred hours I get the pots and pans going. The clock becomes even more important when your days revolve around the school bus, your husband leaving for work, checking the internet for job possibilities, the mailman arriving, the school bus again, making an afterschool treat, starting dinner, texting to see if your husband needs a ride home from work at zero seventeen hundred hours and then another time check to see if the dinner will be ready precisely when he walks through the door. I could be a sergeant, except there’s all that pesky boot camp stuff.

   I was 32 when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate. – Julia Child


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