I credit two women with teaching me to cook, one imaginary and one real. I didn't know the one was made-up until I was a young woman, and I confess it was a shock. It was Betty Crocker whose cookbook was the first I ever consulted, kind of the cooking Bible in my childhood home. It was there our family favorite cookies were found; it was there I looked up unfamiliar food terms, techniques, and table settings; and it was there I looked for recipes to create exciting new things. 'Born' in 1921, her first book published in 1950, Betty's picture changed over the years - and I was in disbelief that they would mess with such an icon! After all, besides her book, her baking mixes were staples in our pantry, and we grew up saving her coupons. In fact, the silverware in my drawer right now was purchased with them. And as you knew I would, I have my own well-worn orange cookbook on my shelf.
The second woman, thank goodness, is real. And that would be my mom, who shared Betty with me in the first place. I don't remember ever being told to get out of the kitchen, but was welcomed in to watch and learn and share. I was given beaters to lick after cakes were mixed up, running commentaries as I watched her cook, and a stool to stand on until I was tall enough to reach the counter. I learned from her that cooking was a way to care for those you loved.
Eventually, I was applauded as I made jello parfaits, filled angel food cakes, and other creations of my own choosing. And finally, one summer when mom and dad were working full-time, my brother and I in high school and fully-capable, we were pretty much handed the "keys" to the kitchen. Back in the days where we could take a signed, blank check to the grocery store and buy what our self-created menu required, come home and have a nice dinner ready for our family.
I still consult Betty occasionally, but it was mom I quizzed last weekend when I decided I'd make a pea salad for the pot-luck we were going to. After all, mom IS the queen of pea salad! And I think, with her expert advice, I made my best one ever. Thanks mom - for the pea salad, of course - but also for the years of mentoring and sharing in the kitchen and around the table. And by the way, Happy Birthday!
Mom's Pea Salad
2 bags frozen peas (10 oz. each), cooked just a couple of minutes in boiling water
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
two cheeses - a white and a yellow (I used cheddar and jack), cubed
green onions, sliced thinly
bacon, crisp and crumbled
seasoning salt and pepper
sour cream (I use "light")
mayonnaise (I use "light")
This is more of a guide-line that a true recipe - but it's like mom told me. Combine the peas, cauliflower, cheese, onions, and pepper. Stir in equal amounts of sour cream and mayo, per your taste. Season with seasoning salt and pepper. Top with bacon just before serving.