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Journey of Cooking - One

Cooking – the practice or manner of preparing food – is definitely one of those skills only mastered with "hands on" learning. We can browse through the most beautifully decorated cookbooks but will only produce our own "masterpieces" when we have followed the recipe and used our own kitchens to bring them about.  

It would be nice to attend Chef school or take classes in gourmet cooking but that isn’t a feasible option for most of us. I don’t think this should hinder us from learning where we can by reading cookbooks and paying attention to their illustrations, watching shows on television where professional chefs show you how its done:) and there are many other ways to learn everything there is to know about cooking!

The best learning I’ve ever done in this area… the learning and taught skills that remain with me every time I cook… are the lessons taught by those dear family and friends who have let me learn by their example and experience. The online dictionary says that "taught" is "to carry on instruction on a regular basis." This is the kind of instruction we get from those who touch our lives in this important area of learned skills.

I don’t think it would be wise to include every thing I have learned in one post so I will send them one or two at a time:)

For me the learning started with my mother. She was a single mother but she didn’t want us to live with any less than those with married parents. There were some areas where we would never have the same stability, routine, or advantages than those homes with two parent families but one area she had control in was cooking!

She found ways to make herself anything we loved but didn’t have the funds to purchase on a routine basis. I always wondered how she could imitate foods and create such close (or better) versions and now people wonder why I even bother:) doing the same thing but I do! I will try my best to figure out a way to make from my mixing bowls and using my measuring utensils anything mass manufactured or bought already prepared!

When I was a teenager I fell in "love" with McDonald’s sausage McMuffins! They were better to me than any other breakfast food and I craved them unabashedly! We could not afford to buy many of these so my mom set out to prove to me that she could make the exact same thing from home. I did NOT believe her and told her "thanks… but it won’t be the SAME". The next morning I awoke to a delicious scent wafting up from the kitchen and after fixing my hair, putting on make up, and on with how the "teen-girl-getting-ready" goes I heard mom calling me down to the kitchen. When I got there she handed me something wrapped in wax paper the same exact way a McMuffin was wrapped when you got them. I opened it up and it looked amazingly – just like the favored ones I had been scraping my dimes together to buy with every chance! I was still skeptical but I tried a bite and that breakfast biscuit had one thing different than the fast food versions… it was BETTER! From that point on my mother made those for my best friend and I every single morning… I don’t know how long that went on or even when she stopped. At the time… I sadly say today that I didn’t see how special that effort on my behalf was. I just accepted that as something moms were supposed to do and like she just wanted to do it to save money or something! How many times since I have had my own children have I thought of that? Beyond the numbers available to count… so pretty much endlessly!

I will include my dear mother’s instructions in making these but I must tell you that I have never made them myself. The sweet memory has always been too tender for me to bear long enough to get through the process.

Mom’s McMuffins

English muffins
Round Sausages
Eggs
Metal round cookie cutter (best to find one as close to the size of the muffin as possible)
American Cheese Slices
Cook sausage round first – slowly so they don’t burn and stay soft. *Using a non-stick pan is preferred for this*.
Cook eggs next – in a separate skillet. Grease pan enough that there is no way the egg can have dry places and place round cookie cutter in the center of the skillet and ease egg into the cookie cutter. Mom cracked the egg into a small bowl first so that she could "pour" it into the circle. Cook on that side until firm and gently remove cookie cutter. Tenderly flip the egg and slowly cook the other side until it is done.
Place a slice of cheese on the egg and heat until melted.
*Mom didn’t have a microwave back then so it might be much easier to do the next part using a microwave*

Boil some water or heat up some in a tea kettle and hold the split English muffins over the steam until soft. Place face down into the sausage grease in the skillet they were prepared in. Immediately and quickly place the sausage, the egg & cheese on the bottom of the muffin and place the top on. Place this in a plastic zippered bag and allow to remain there until cool enough to eat.

Only love could motivate someone to go through this process every morning for a moody teenager carrying around more attitude than gratitude!

On another occasion… mom performed an act of love like this. It was my 16th birthday. I loved, loved, loved Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and when mom asked me what type of cake I would like I told her peanut butter and chocolate:) Guess what? She worked with recipes and tried this and tried that and on my birthday she presented me with a home made peanut butter cake with real chocolate icing. The cake was covered in a sweet peanut butter icing and chocolate was poured over that. It was decadent to say the least! My other favorite food of that time was Kentucky Fried Chicken but she opted to just buy that instead of making it AND the cake:) This was a very memorable time for me… just another gift of love from my mother’s kitchen.

Since then there have been different kitchens from which my mother poured out, mixed out, iced together, served out, and given from. She has always made hearty vegetable stews but none have ever, ever been the same as the others… she has perfected the most mouth watering pork loin ever tasted and try as I might to follow her instructions… mine has never come close. This mother, this wife, writer, registered nurse, seamstress, and cook book collector accomplished more in my heart – the heart of her child, her daughter – than she will ever know.

I can only hope that my children will one day think as fondly of me while cooking, cleaning, or just "being" as I think of my mother when I’m in my kitchen.

It would be enough – in my humble opinion – if it was only her children she served throughout the years but she went beyond her own home. She hand gathered hundreds of pecans and made up exquisite Christmas gifts with them… shelled them by hand and made German chocolate pecan pies that she sold to a local restaurant for money to spend on our Christmas gifts. She made extras for our friends when they came over and sometimes sent some to their parents, she made home made fudge and divinity for teachers, friends, and co-workers… she served by taking the precious and limited time she had at home and away from work and used every minute of that time for good.

I don’t know how she did it but I hope that some day I can become as worthy, righteous, and beautiful in the eyes of my children as she has become to me.

Is there something you could make today to show your husband you love him? Does he have a favorite dish that you know how to fix that you could plan for tonight’s meal or one this week? Is there a special treat you could fix for your dear ones to reveal to them a mother’s love? A shown love, a just-because-love, a very welcome-home-my-darling love?

When you prepare something home prepared today for your own family… would it be much more difficult to make up two instead of one so you could give the extra to family or friend?

Take care of your kitchen today. Clean it, shine it, organize it, and bring about sweet order. Appreciate the mixing bowls, measuring spoons, shiny pots and pans, capable cookie sheets, and well used baking dishes. If you haven’t cooked in a while… get out a cookbook or go online to get a recipe and just cook it! Fix it, stir it, mix it up, whirl it around, dance and dare in this room of memories. Memories for you and memories for those you serve it from.

Happy baking, cooking, preparing, and making day!

Love,   Your sister in Christ… humbled and kneeled at His throne…   Sandy:)

Sandy Willoughby 2001

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