Thanksgiving last month meant a trip to my husband’s family event and later to the Cracker Barrel with six of my family members.
Thanksgiving Facebook postings showed some of my friends had decorated their dining room to the hilt with their best dishes and flatware. The food looked as if it could have been photographed for an upcoming Betty Crocker cookbook. I posted a few words about my satisfying experience at the Cracker Barrel where I enjoyed a turkey sandwich on rye and ice tea
All the recent attention to food in magazines, newspapers and on television shows had me reminiscing last night about my failures as a cook.
My mother, Opal Adams Bowling, a good cook who learned her culinary skills at Benham High School, never taught her children to cook, or wash clothes or dishes or clean house. She always said, “I will not rob my children of their childhood.”
She certainly never robbed me of my childhood, and I was never prepared for any work in the kitchen when I married at age 20.
I’ll give you a few examples of my cooking disasters, and they’ll bring a smile or a smirk to your face if you are a competent cook:
I fried liver, including the skirt that soaks up the blood, and served it proudly as I touted the nutritional values of this organ meat;
My first attempts at fried chicken resulted in pieces that were a beautiful golden brown on the outside with blood dripping once my guests took the first bite;
I made the world’s worst spaghetti with ketchup and cheap frozen hamburger for my sister one summer at Eastern Kentucky University;
Bragging about my Appalachian roots to a college art professor, I cooked pinto beans in a cheap pot and burned everything up, including the pot;
I made a pecan pie that my father-in-law, Roy Blevins, said, “This is good, Vivian, if I could only cut the crust.”
And then I got pregnant, and was not allowed to continue teaching (Yes, ignorant people at that time thought I would be a bad influence on my high school students).
I was bored being at home by myself all day, so I asked my mother to send me a cookbook, and she did. It was called the “Household Searchlight Recipe Book” and was published in 1939.
The book was a magic glimpse into the world of genuine cooking with no reference to cooking ingredients such as Cool Whip, miniature marshmallows or Lipton soup mix. Everything was “from scratch,” and there were even instructions on how to kill, dress and fry a chicken.
Now, I’ve never killed a chicken, but I followed the instructions for many of the recipes in that book and taught myself to cook. Big Time! My husband, Jack, went from 130 pounds to 160 in about four months.
As I moved ahead with being a mother, a wife and an educator, I soon stopped making yeast rolls and cakes from those recipes. I cooked so infrequently that my sons always thanked me when I did cook (My grandson, Jack Tyler, now does the same).
Today I want to thank Mrs. Buttermore and Mrs. Jones at Harlan High School for teaching my sons, Lance and Quentin, to cook. They are great cooks, thanks to these wonderful teachers, much better than I ever dreamed of or even wanted to be.