Thursday, August 22, 2013

Making dinner...

There was a time in my life when I fancied myself a pretty damn good cook.  I actually worked as a cook at a rustic Presbyterian summer camp in Star Tannery, Virginia about twenty years ago.  It was probably one of the best jobs I ever had, even though it didn't pay much and the hours were long.  I got to spend all day dressed the way I wanted to be dressed and cooking for kids and teens.  And they actually liked what I cooked.  I even had a few kids ask for recipes.

I made this "potty" birthday cake for my boss when he and a bunch of other campers got sick with a virus...  It reads, "Hurling into #33..."

Sure, I was making things like spaghetti, Mexican beef casserole, grilled cheese sandwiches, and pancakes, but I got very good at cooking for a crowd.  People really appreciated what I did.  Even the three smartassed teenagers who worked as my dishwashers and assistant cook liked my cooking and praised me over the woman who had the job the year prior.  I worked there for two summers and really enjoyed it.  It made me think maybe I'd like to go to culinary school.

Bill's favorite cake...

A couple of years later, I joined the Peace Corps and had the opportunity to show off my cooking talents there, too.  I was recruited by some business volunteers who had dried produce that they were trying to figure out a way to market and export.  They asked me to help come up with recipes for things like dried apricots, dried tomatoes, dried onions, and dried plums.  That project ended up being a lot of fun.  The USDA even gave me an oven to use in my apartment.  I made pizza sauce with the dried tomatoes and onions and we hosted a pizza party at the US embassy restaurant in Armenia.  It was a big hit.

Pretty soon, I was asked to help teach the ladies who worked in the restaurant how to cook food that was a little more in line with the tastes of Americans.  It was a big ego boost when I'd make something like apple pie and it would sell out in ten minutes.  I also went to an Armenian restaurant and showed them a few things.  That was an interesting experience.  Armenian restaurants in the 90s were very bare bones.

When I came home from Armenia, I really thought I would embark in a career in the restaurant industry.  I found it very satisfying.  But then I waited tables for awhile...  It was something I needed to do, since I needed to understand how restaurants work.  I realized I wouldn't be happy working in a restaurant.  Or... perhaps I wouldn't be happy working in THAT restaurant.  I learned a lot and made some great friends, but decided that maybe I should go back to school.  And we see how that turned out... I became an overeducated housewife.

I partially won over Bill through his stomach.  When he visited me for the first time in my tiny apartment in Columbia, South Carolina, I made him a very nice meal consisting of roast beef, gravy, mashed potatoes, homemade rolls, and green beans sautéed in amaretto...  even though he was LDS at the time.  I also made a chocolate blackout cake for him and to this day, when there's a special occasion, he likes it when I bake that cake.  At the time, he was as broke as I was, so that meal was a nice treat for him.  It also scored me big points in the potential wife department, though I think he enjoys my sense of humor over my cooking skills.

Yes... I was a good cook at one time, even though I am mostly self-taught.

When Bill and I first got married, I used to do most of the cooking.  Nowadays, he does it.  When we moved to Germany, I got frustrated, because I never knew when he was going to be home.  And I didn't like the oven in our house.  Bill also likes to cook, so he took over.

I have to say, in our almost eleven years of marriage, he has come a long way.  When I first met him, he knew how to cook a few things.  Now he's game to try all sorts of things.  He's even braver than I am.  I'm still a better baker, though he has learned how to make bread by hand about as well as I do.

The other day, Bill said he would take my car in to the MINI dealer to get it serviced.  I said I owed him a dinner.  Last night, he was late getting home because one of the bigwigs at his job talked for too long.  He sent me an email letting me know he was on his way.  I determined that I'd rather cook dinner than watch Stepmom again.  I went to the kitchen and started cooking some Virginia sausage links I purchased from Whitley's Peanuts, a company located in my hometown of Gloucester, Virginia that has the best peanuts I have ever tasted.  I bought some peanuts and peanut butter and decided to try the sausages... which turned out to be fabulous.

I added peppers, onions, fresh basil, garlic, and a little olive oil.  Then I mixed all of that stuff in with some tomato sauce and red wine.  I started making a loaf of bread and boiled some bowtie pasta we needed to use.  I put the pasta in a baking dish with the sauce, topped it with a little cheese, and baked it.  Bill came home and was delighted that I was making dinner... and he made simple green salads and a balsamic olive oil vinaigrette.

I put on some music and lit some candles.  Bill poured some excellent red Mulderbosch wine from South Africa that we discovered at a South African restaurant in Atlanta.  We had a very nice dinner.  Then we retreated upstairs to watch the results of America's Got Talent.

While we were watching, Bill dozed off.  He happened to be holding a glass of red wine, which spilled all over the crappy carpet.  He woke with a start and on my direction, got a cup of hydrogen peroxide, mixed it with a teaspoon of dish soap, and went to work cleaning up the mess.  I am happy to report the wine stain is mostly gone.  Thanks, Internet domestic gods...

Maybe it's time I started cooking again.

Last time I used the bowtie pasta, I made mac n' cheese...  I refer to this as a present for my ass.

As you can see, I really like my carbs.


  1. Sounds delicious! And that mac & cheese looks amazing. Doubly so since I'm currently (mostly) off carbs.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Amy. Mr. Bill was very pleased, probably because he didn't have to cook last night. He helped anyway.


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