Let's face it: my husband did not marry me for my cooking. I will freely admit that I don't like to cook, I hate going to the grocery store and will quickly skip over any and all cooking shows on TV. When I first went away to college and had to feed myself, lack of funds and little experience were responsible for such culinary masterpieces as "Mexican Surprise" and "Asian Surprise." (The only difference between the two was chili powder or soy sauce in my Top Ramen.)
My husband told me when we first started dating that he knew how to cook. I thought that, and love, would see us through. Unfortunately knowing how and doing are two different things.
When our oldest was in kindergarten his class created a "cookbook" as a Mother's Day gift, a recipe compilation, as dictated by 5-year-olds, of their favorite homemade foods. My son's contribution was "Honey Toast": toast the bread, add honey. This, apparently, was his mother's signature dish.
Last summer our microwave broke and my husband was afraid the kids would starve. Luckily I learned you can cook frozen chicken nuggets in the oven, too.
The other night I was making dinner for my family and congratulating myself that it didn't involve fluorescent orange cheese-flavored powder or any ingredients that would need a chemist to decipher.
I got to thinking, as I chopped and boiled (and did not use the microwave, thank you very much), how my mother still cooks certain foods when I visit because she knows they are my favorite. What dishes, I wondered, would my kids recall fondly from their childhood (I mean, besides honey toast)?
There are a few things that I have learned to cook successfully on a regular basis. My son will happily eat my lasagna any day of the week, a recipe I got from my father. I think of this as "Norwegian Lasagna", as it calls for cottage cheese instead of something as exotic as ricotta; and my father is Norwegian. Lasagna is one of the few dishes all three kids will eat without complaint, rolling of eyeballs, or muttering "Again?" with shear disgust.
My older daughter likes my recipe for chicken and black bean enchiladas, which I found in one of those "5 Ingredients or Less", ""One Pot Suppers", "Even You Can't Screw This Up" cookbooks. Chicken (cooked in the microwave, of course), canned black beans, a can of green chiles, cheese and sour cream rolled up in a tortilla. They were right, I can't screw it up.
My youngest has more unique taste buds--perhaps the only child to ever utter the phrase "Yum, broccoli!" She won't eat cereal with milk on it, doesn't like hot chocolate, and has never eaten jelly with her peanut butter. While her favorite dinners would include salmon and cooked peas (ewww), I know the one recipe she will cherish from her childhood: Chocolate Chip Pie.
(Right now, all my siblings are smiling and nodding--Oh yeah, Chocolate Chip Pie!)
Chocolate Chip Pie is a treat that my grandmother used to make for us when we were little. We thought this was Grandma Mabel's secret recipe: Cool Whip, marshmallows and chocolate chips in a graham cracker crust. As adults we each got a copy of it written out in our grandmother's handwriting and it is something I treasure. A few years ago, however, I found the exact same recipe on the back of a graham cracker box. I choose to believe Nabisco stole it from Grandma Mabel.
While my lack of cooking skills may have instilled less than perfect eating habits in my children (frozen waffles can be served for dinner), I like to think where I have failed, they will choose to succeed. My grandchildren will perhaps dine on homemade stew and Chicken Parmesan on a regular basis. And I will happily invite myself to dinner, bringing the Chocolate Chip Pie for dessert, of course.