Thursday, December 23, 2010

Why do I love to cook?

When I hear someone say she hates to cook, my response is similar to the reaction to hearing someone hates to read – somewhat akin to horror. I have loved to cook for most of my life. I remember taking over the cooking of my morning egg as a kid at home, because Mom over cooked it. I wanted the white cooked, but the yellow still runny enough to dip my toast in. I do not remember a time I could not cook pancakes from scratch without a recipe, a skill that impresses my grandchildren today. The same goes for cornbread. My dad ate it every day, so I learned to cook it just the way he liked it. I measured the baking powder on a fork, no need for a measuring spoon.
After I married Blaine, I joined the family of an outstanding cook, my mother-in-law Elaine. She made fried chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy almost every Sunday. She taught me how to cut up a chicken. She also baked bread from a yeast starter she had kept alive since Blaine was a baby, a tradition I am maintaining. Every time I put my yeast out to set, I think of her and the years of “Mama Bread” she baked for her family.
As a young mother, I baked a sweet treat almost daily. I greeted the children at the door after school with a plate of cookies or brownies and wanted to hear all about their day. We also had fun times cooked together, mixing Blonde Brownies, Aunt Rosene’s Saucepan Brownies, or my friend Beth’s Soft Sugar Cookies, all of which were best eaten warm from the oven.
Since I am on Christmas break from school, today I cooked a turkey breast, mashed potatoes, and dumplings. The dumplings were made from a recipe in the Laura Ingalls Wilder cookbook I bought when I took my daughters to visit her home several years ago. As I mixed them up, I revisited memories of reading the Little House books to my kids, and the overwhelming emotion that gripped me as I entered Laura and Almanzo’s house in Mansfield, MO.
Blaine and I filled our plates and tucked our feet under the old oak pedestal table we inherited that belonged to his mother, and before that, his grandmother. This table is the one we gathered around to eat Elaine’s fried chicken, mashed potatoes and homemade bread, all slathered with gravy.
Later, as I washed the pots and pans, I thought again about why I love to cook. I believe I finally discovered the answer. For me, cooking is all mixed up with love.