Homemade, with Love

I have always loved to cook. The smell of a stew cooking, or a roasted chicken, makes me salivate with expectation. I also enjoy the prep work, if I have the time to do it right. I like to line all my ingredients up on the shelf next to the stove, pretending I am a famous chef doing a cooking show. It is a pleasure to serve food that is tasty and nutritious.

            When I married Jerry, my late husband, he didn’t cook much, but he had a few recipes for which he was famous. Well, at least in our family. He did a lot more cooking after he retired. I was still working, and I asked him if he could cook at least once a week, and he readily agreed. He had some dishes that he made by feel, such as his famous potato dumplings. A bit of a perfectionist, he had been known to throw away a batch of potato dumplings because they didn’t “feel right.” I am not so fastidious. Sometimes a recipe looks a lot better on paper than it ever turns out, and Jerry ate a few of my “mistakes.” Although he was always gentle about it, I took the hint. He usually didn’t volunteer the information, but would respond to my question, “Did you like that?”

            He would smile and say, “Well…” He always cooked breakfast on weekends and recently enjoyed experimenting with his instant pot and sous vide cooking process.

            I like to make main dishes, such as soups or pasta with lots of vegetables and a little meat or seafood. I am famous in my family for pea soup, made with a meaty ham bone. My Better Homes and Garden Cookbook, c. 1966, is out of control with loose pages and recipes and has to be held together with a thick rubber band. It was my Bible when I first got married, but now I have recipes in numerous other cookbooks and places around my kitchen. I am always looking for new recipes for main dishes.

            Jerry had the sweet tooth I lack, and he liked to make desserts, even occasionally including his own birthday cake, which saved me the trouble, although I must admit I felt a little guilty about it. I am not that fond of cake, and would eat one piece, leaving the rest to him. Whenever I volunteered to bring a dessert to work for any reason, I knew I could ask him to bake something and he would be happy to oblige. I could even admit to the group that I didn’t make it, and I often received as much admiration for a husband that bakes as for the dessert I brought!

            His specialties changed over the years. Cinnamon Buns were a favorite for a while, but then he moved on. Everyone loved his Apple Dumplings, so he continued to make them. We both made bread and dough in the bread machine, but cut back when the extra pounds appeared. He did have a favorite Cinnamon Raisin Craisin Bread that was a crowd pleaser. Most recently, he made several different kinds of cookies, which were much in demand among golfing buddies and other friends. In fact, he had to make special trips to the golfers’ homes because the wives heard stories about the great cookies, but there were never any left when the husbands got  home!

            Jerry is no longer here, but I have managed to still enjoy forays into my kitchen. I have found that I can cook the amount I used to for both of us and have a tasty leftover meal, plus maybe a lunch. Then I don’t have to cook every day. It may seem strange, but food has tasted just so good recently. I even like my leftovers! I look forward to making my concoctions, and have found a couple of new recipes I plan to make again.

            But there is nothing like cooking for others. How better to show your love? My daughter, Stacy, is coming for a visit later this month. She will arrive on Jerry’s birthday and has already placed her order for the dishes she wants me to cook, including pea soup made with the ham bone from our Christmas dinner. We will drink a toast to Jerry, and I will keep her busy helping me in the kitchen, just like the old days, as I take care of her and enjoy being her mom. Pure love, no recipe needed.

My first cookbook c. 1966

5 thoughts on “Homemade, with Love

  1. Great narrative. LOVE the picture of the cookbook! (You should see my old Betty Crocker with burnt rings on it from when I placed it on a hot electric stove.)

  2. This came out lovely- like a lot of recipes you’ve gotten out of that over-wrought book. I have my mother’s cookbook with notations and stains. Sometimes looking u a recipe takes a long time due to the strolls down memory lane.

  3. Ah, I remember those treats that Jerry would make! I’m glad you find satisfaction in cooking good meals for yourself, Polly. So many people don’t care for leftovers! I am fond of eating a second meal a day or two after a good first meal. And I’m glad that your daughter will be with you again soon.

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