When learning new skill, desire is half the battle

Day by day

When learning new skill, desire is half the battle

By LIZ THOMPSON

October 13, 2015 This Week News

When I was a single mom, thankfully not for long, I made do with what I had — whether it was food, clothes, a car or any tangible, everyday item.

My daughter calls them our “oni-oni days.” Macaroni and cheese was 10 cents a box in 1977 and sometimes I added pepperoni, thus the oni-oni. Not completely nutritious, but we did fine.

Sometimes I bought juice bottled in glass jars with small openings. Once emptied, I washed the jar and used it to make juice from concentrate or tea. I used the thin end of a wooden spoon — one of my favorite kitchen utensils to this day — to mix the liquid. The spoon end, obviously, would not fit in the small opening. I never gave it a second thought.

When my daughter started her own family, she was mixing a drink in a gallon pitcher with a typically large opening. When her husband saw her mixing the liquid with the thin end of a wooden spoon, he asked her why.

“Because my mother did it that way,” she answered.

She realized the humor in it and asked me. Once we figured it out, we laughed. Funny the things we do just because our parents did something a certain way.

My cooking skills didn’t really improve for years to come, probably because I had no interest as a youth. As a teen, I even messed up Jell-O the only time I tried to make it.

Once I was remarried, with both my husband and I working full time, it meant a lot of quick meals for hungry children when we got home from work. I became a short-order cook and made a lot of what I called “skillet suppers,” with whatever we had on hand.

I became creative in how to make fast meals such as chili or Johnny Marzetti with many different ingredients, hiding vegetables at times. No one went hungry, for which I’m thankful.

This was pre-Food Network, and cookbooks such as The Joy of Cooking and Better Homes & Gardens were guides for home cooks. I gathered recipes from family and friends, too.

When I called from work to check in at home one day, our oldest daughter asked what was for dinner.

“Whatever you’re cooking,” I told her.

“Really?” she said excitedly.

And we had Joe’s Special for dinner, which was delicious. I likely cleaned up, as a special thank you.

Soon all three children were taking turns cooking and baking — and they excelled. Their children followed suit and know their way around a kitchen.

This proves we can learn new things, if we’re willing to try and be taught.

In my journey to improve my cooking skills, 35-plus years ago I decided to make noodles. Eggs and flour, right? My mistake was cracking eight eggs into eight cups of flour. (If you make pasta, you are cringing right now.) Disaster.

Seeing my dilemma, in the form of a huge blob of flour and eggs, my husband said to call his sister. Gin had already given me tips on pie crust, so I called her, knowing she wouldn’t laugh into the phone.

After I told her what I’d done and what my goal had been, she said: “Liz, throw it away. But not down the drain.”

This much I knew.

“Then take one egg and a partial cup of flour and mix it, adding flour as needed and maybe a little oil.”

I made noodles. With this experience, I learned to ask first and that I was teachable. But to this day, when I make pasta, I think of Gin’s advice and start with one egg and a partial cup of flour, not eight of each.

More than I’d like to think about, I have heard excuses such as, “I can’t cook,” or “I don’t cook,” with the latter puzzling. Or “I can’t write/read well,” and general statements about a person’s inability to do something they’d apparently like to be able to do.

I’m living proof that most things can be learned, if the desire and willingness exist. No excuses with finding resources. Libraries are packed with books, and the Internet has recipes, how-to tips and information about any topic. Julia Child led the way and now cooking shows and cookbooks abound.

If the people in your life have experience they want to share, be willing to learn. If it’s cooking, have your children join you.

It might make for a tasty meal. I guarantee good memories.

 

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