Saturday, October 20, 2007

Shake and Bake - And I Helped!

I learned how to cook when I was nine years old, growing up in Upstate New York. It was 1972 and Mom had gone back to work to support herself and her two boys after the divorce.

My brother and I knew we had to pitch in and I picked up the "pink jobs" - cooking and cleaning. I wasn't raised to see it as "women's work" and I now use the same philosophy Mom did in my own home: the division of labor is based on he who does the best job or has the best skill - and don't bitch about it. That's exactly how Mom would have said it.

I remember helping Mom with some of her holiday or specialty baking starting when I was about six years old. Christmas cookies, date nut bread, lemon merengue pie. But the first dinner I cooked was Shake and Bake chicken - and I helped!

I could never thank Mom enough for what she taught me in that kitchen. It was more than just measurements, time, temperature. It was the gift of generosity and also of "making do with what we have"; the encouragement to experiment and try new things and also to rely on the old "tried and true". Sure there were some failures but Mom knew that I could get back up on my own and it was the only way I would learn.

Today, I have, as they say, "mad skills" when it comes to cooking. I have certain dishes I learned from my mother. I have certain dishes that I've discovered and have become part of my routine. And there are certain dishes I've created on my own.

Thanks Mom for the gift.