Learning to cook with ‘appeal’ Print
Grand Mom
Thursday, Nov. 22, 2012 -- 12:00 AM

Grandmom column by Audrey Fixmer

My late husband taught me two important lessons about cooking.

When I confessed to him a few weeks before our wedding that I knew nothing about cooking (zilch!), he advised me in his typical philosophical manner, “There are two ways to look upon the challenge of cooking: one as an art, which requires creative talent, and the other as a science, which requires a cookbook. Get a cookbook.”

I chose, unconsciously I suppose, to do both. My mother was a good cook in the old German/Luxembourg tradition. She cooked to please my dad, who liked his meat and potatoes, radishes dipped in salt, and egg pancakes rolled up with his bacon-flavored bean soup.

We never had a turkey for Thanksgiving because dad said they were too dry. So mother got the biggest chicken she could find (from the butcher shop downtown the day before, because we had only ice boxes back then) and stuffed it with a giblet-bread stuffing. She made wonderful mince-meat pies, which I never could duplicate because it was homemade mincemeat.

By the time I was married, cookbooks and magazines were coming out with colored photos, so along with the recipes I learned to add eye-appeal.

So within the first month of our marriage, I foolishly invited Bob’s brother to dinner. He had been a cook in the navy, so he was more familiar with stoves and things that were still foreign to me.

I had heard many stories about the brothers fishing as kids and how they loved their bullheads. So when I found bullheads featured at the local market, I knew I could make a hit.

The butcher told me all I had to do was “flip ’em in flour and flip ’em in the the frying pan.” So that’s what I did. And I proudly served the boys a platter of golden fish, artistically decorated with lemon slices and parsley.

“Guts!’ screamed Warren when he dipped his fork into the first piece. With that he jumped up from the table and bolted out the door and down the stairs. I was in tears. No one told me that I had to clean the insides of the slimy things.

I learned a lot from that experience. I began a serious study of nutrition and healthy food preparation. We moved thousands of miles away from our families when Bob finished his degree at St. John’s in Minnesota, so I didn’t have family to call for help.

I stuck to the recipes in the cookbook and learned from the good Polish ladies of Holdiingford (where Bob had his first teaching position) how to bake bread, and freeze and can their bumper crops they brought by the bushel to our door.

And I learned how to artfully stuff a big turkey and cook it without drying it out, and we always found friends to invite for Thanksgiving.


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