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  • I was in my teens and America was coming out of the 60’s and trying to decide how the 70s were going to be different when my mother changed my life. She’d done the;

    breakfast before school,
    brown bag lunches packed and lined up on the counter,
    supper at 6:00,

    thing for years.

    It was time for a change.

    Change came as a sign up sheet in her neat script tacked to the fridge door.

    A sign-up sheet, she explained. Cooking, dishes two nights a week.

    We filled in the slots in the schedule and, in my memory at least, she let us take it from there.

    some meals were memorable; sautéed lettuce in rather a lot of butter,
    some rather basic; scrambled eggs and hot dog slices
    our teenage sense of keeping to the 6:00 dead line drove my father’s sense of order to the edge
    but we learned to read recipes, plan a little, and cook.

    For many years I did cooking as an after school activity. The school back then was set up in four older houses and the kitchen was big for a house but definitely cramped when 18 kids trooped in to see if the cookies were ready to come out of the oven. I always had a full crew, 18-20 kids. I set up 4 or 5 cooking stations with bowls and ingredients and utensils every Wednesday afternoon early enough so the butter would be soft and we could actually measure and mix and shape and bake and clean-up all in time to make the 4:00 bus. We did baking; doughs, batters, cookies. Devil dogs, cake, pizza, soft pretzels, cinnamon swirl buns, roll cookies, cut cookies, drop cookies, hermits, and brownies.

    15 weeks. 15 recipes. Bake and take. They wrapped the extras in paper towels to take home. Drove the other kids on the bus wild with the smells.

    We always left some for Ms Elizabeth and Ms Christine because even with the best intent and effort the cafeteria and kitchen needed extra cleaning when we were done.

    On the last session we made recipe books. It always surprised me how they took their time on the books. Illustrations, tables of content, arranged by category. They even passed them around for everyone in the group to sign.

    I always made extra copies of all the recipes so that Ms Elizabeth and Ms Christine could make a book too.

    Each year, I started with the story about how my mother taught us all to cook. How it changed my life made me what I am today.

    Then we cooked.
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