January 13, 2011 | Posted in: Friends

Sorry I’ve been MIA for a couple of days. My hearts been broken by a young person I love and I found myself flung across my bed weeping … but that’s a story for another day. Until then I want to tell you about something that’s brought my family much happiness through the years and it’s something I encourage everyone to learn how to do. Cook.

Until I got married, I’d never cooked a thing in my life. My mom was a good cook, but she only had about 10 recipes and as a single parent, in our home, cooking was a purely utilitarian chore. Mom did all the cooking, we, her five children, were expected to be good students and be devoted to each other. That was that.

When I married my high school sweetheart at age 20, both of us went from our parents home to our home. Nothing in between. No dormitory or apartment life. No trial period. Just a new marriage accompanied by a new little house in the suburbs. Busy working and making our house a home, my first husband was an angel about everything from housework, to lawn care, to laundry … but he was especially wonderful when it came to my learning how to cook.

In his opinion I could do no wrong in the kitchen. No matter how inexperienced or how borderline mediocre the dish, everything I made was always followed with, “That was delicious! What a wonderful cook you’re becoming!” Didn’t matter if it was scrambled eggs and toast or something more complicated like meatloaf, he was precious in that he went out of his way to make me feel special and appreciated. It made learning how to cook a joy. I share this with you because it’s a very different story from another young couple we ran around with at the time. Jim and Faith (I’ve not changed their names in order to protect them!). Goodness, what great times the four of us had together, many of them over dinner.

Faith, like me, didn’t know how to cook when they got married but unlike me, she grew up with a mom who was a gourmet cook. The love for good food made it a shoe-in that Faith would follow in her mother’s footsteps. Crazy in love with Jim, Faith knew there was going to be a “Wow!” factor when it came to her cooking for her new husband. Anxious to get started she dug in as soon as they got home from their honeymoon. Laboring over the stove and oven all day, and a bit frazzled by the time dinner was ready, she still managed to turn out a delicious meal (I can’t remember exactly what it was but it was something elegant like osco bucco. Very different from my ground beef tacos!).

By the time dinner rolled around, Jim, a good old boy, with an extremely refined palate [for hamburgers and pizza], was tired and hungry. The table was set, he sat down to dinner, took one bite, and without even thinking took the plate of food and flung the contents into the trash directly behind him! He then made the gigantically enormous mistake of simultaneously saying, “What the HELL was that?!”

OMG! What in the world was he thinking?!!! Would you EVER say or do something this dumb?!!!

The rest of the story is that Faith burst into tears, ran out of the kitchen and never cooked another meal. To this day it remains one of their most hilarious stories because the bottom line is, repentant hubby, Jim, learned to become a gourmet cook in order to apologize [for the rest of his life] to his sweet bride for his incredibly stupid behavior. The most ironic part of this story though is Jim’s palate hasn’t changed.  He doesn’t eat the gourmet stuff he prepares and staves off hunger by keeping a stash of mac and cheese for himself (such is love!). And one other thing. It’s nearly impossible to find the trash can in their kitchen what with their having taken great pains to move it as far away from the kitchen table as possible! The formula seems to have worked. They’ve been happily married for 35+ years. Isn’t their’s a great love story?!

Unlike Jim and Faith, my first marriage didn’t make it to our fourth wedding anniversary. Though we divorced, I still love and appreciate the wonderful human being he has always been. An incredible father to our son, he remained gracious to me and has never been anything but a perfect gentleman to my second husband. But the thing I love and appreciate the most about my first husband, was how he put me on the road to becoming an excellent cook which, in turn, set me up to feel the love that preparing great meals can bring into our lives. (Thank you, Brad. My life wouldn’t be the same without you.)

I’m incredibly blessed in that my second husband, Bob, picked up the mantle and made sure I was appreciated for the love and effort I put into cooking.  Though I was a significantly better cook the second time around, from the very beginning, he raved about my cooking. He loved that when our children were little, dinner time was always a great source of happiness for our family. An opportunity to laugh and talk and get caught up on the days events over delicious meals. Some of my sweetest memories are of seeing my children’s eyes light up because I was preparing one of their favorite dishes. Even when they were barely verbal they would say, “Mommy, you’re such a good cooker!” Made my heart sing every single time.

My philosophy is this, if you have to eat, and if there are people in your life that have to eat, you might as well make cooking one of the things you love to do! It will pay off in untold dividends. Also, it’s not complicated to learn to cook. If you can read you can cook! Cooking classes, dinner group, great cookbooks, all designed to help you enjoy the process! Currently I’m crazy about anything by Ina Garten, The Barefoot Contessa. If you’re not a good cook but you’re interested in learning, start with her. I promise you … NOTHING will end up in the trash!

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Not only do I love to cook, I surround myself with girlfriends who are wonderful cooks! Here’s a shot from last Thanksgiving. We had 40 friends and loved ones here for a sit down dinner. I prepared 14 separate dishes. Amy, Laura and Jenny brought fabulous gourmet dishes as well. YUM. So many of life’s celebrations revolve around food. You might as well make them memorable by pouring lots of love into well prepared dishes!

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One of my best friends in the world, happens to be my neighbor, Melanie. One of the greatest gifts in my life is that she also happens to be a fabulous cook! I can’t tell you how many hours we’ve spent together cooking and laughing in my kitchen. Thank you, Melanie, for cooking up so many good times in my life! I love you!

Gotta run. Lots of celebrating to do today (honestly, FOUR loved ones have birthdays today including my one year old grandson!). Having lunch with my fabulous girlfriends as well as an exquisite engagement dinner party tonight! Bon appetit!