Learning to Cook

by Stacy Artis


My mom and I didn't (and still don't) have a particularly close or nurturing relationship, so there were no cozy cooking lessons in our kitchen as I was growing up.  My "education" began when I was 14 or 15 and giving my parents grief about having to wash the dishes everyday.  I asked my dad why I always had to wash them and he replied that since my mom did all the cooking, I had to do the cleaning up.  A lightbulb went on somewhere in my mind and an idea began to form.  If I had to wash dishes because Mom did the cooking, did that mean if I did the cooking I wouldn't have to wash dishes?  Dad agreed that such a trade-off would be fair, though I'm not sure Mom ever saw it that way. 

I began cooking the very next day.  I used recipes, asked questions or made it up as I went along.  There were a few flops along the way, but for the most part my experiments turned out fairly well.  It turned out I had a talent for cooking and some of my most precious memories are of my dad complimenting a meal I had made, because he was very stingy with compliments and my grandmother is the only other person whose cooking I ever heard him praise.  I made dinner virtually every night from that beginning until I left for college three years later.

Not much cooking went on during college or during the first two years of my marriage because I worked until 6:30 every evening.  We lived near Tim's parents at the time and since his mom was cooking for 7 or 8 every night, she insisted we just eat there.  Tim's mom was a lovely woman and gladly took me under her wing, but I didn't learn anything from her when it came to cooking.  She was a plain meat and potatoes cook.  She didn't even use spices....really....none.  Not even salt and pepper.

The next stop in my cooking journey was two years spent living with my grandmother.  She was a wonderful old-fashioned, home-style cook and taught me how to cook the way she did.  Everything was so yummy, but I don't often cook the way she did because it all tends to be very high in fat (lots of bacon grease and lard involved).

Mom has over the years helped me learn preserving and canning when I've asked her and we've made a lot of holiday dinners together, but mostly I'm back to experimenting on my own again and trying new recipes.  I've tried watching the cooking shows on television, but I just can't get into them.  Things that come along in life shape what I make now, too.  With Tim and I both in our 40's now I'm getting more health conscious and trying to incorporate more fruits and vegetables and healthier cooking methods.  I imagine I'll be learning the rest of my life.