Looking back on it, I'm kind of horrified by the diet I ate as a child - seriously, I had committed to memory the entire menus of Burger King, Arby's, McDonald's, Wendy's, Taco Bell & Pizza Hut, not to mention a few locally owned sandwich shops.
Anyhow, one day when I was about 8 or 9, my mother, brother and I stopped off to visit my Grandmother (my dad's mother) who invited us to stay for dinner.
We graciously accepted her invitation, and then I remember my mother peeking in the freezer and whispering in my ear "there's no food in there!" Well... what she actually meant was that there were no frozen dinners in the freezer.
But my grandmother, having run several restaurants in her day, was a fabulous cook, and she proceeded to make us what I deemed to be an incredible feast!
In reality, she just roasted some beef, made gravy with side dishes of pasta, biscuits and fresh steamed vegetables - but to me, this meal ranked right up there with the best Thanksgiving dinner my mother had ever prepared.
It's funny how one situation like that can have a profound impact on a person's life - but that was the moment when I decided that I wanted to learn how to cook.
I began a never-ending campaign trying to pester my poor mother into making real food. Suffice it to say, it did not go well, and my mother did not enjoy being reminded of what a good cook her ex-husband's mother was!
But as I grew older, learning to cook became a passion for me - though I was at a bit of a disadvantage since I didn't have any basic skills to start out with. But I muddled through, and at some point in my early adulthood eating real food became the rule rather than the exception for me.
Now... have you ever had the experience of going through a big transformation, and sort of forgetting that the rest of the world didn't actually come along for the ride with you?
I guess part of me has always just assumed that everybody dove into the adventure of cooking once they were out on their own. But I think the truth is that sadly, most of the people in this country eat like my mother did... or perhaps worse, if that's even possible.
So... flash forward to this morning. I needed to run to the grocery store to pick up a few things, and I guess I sorta forgot that everybody and their brother would be out doing their Thanksgiving shopping this week. Holy Moly!
It wasn't just that the store was crowded, it was like there were droves of people who had wandered out of the darkness of the frozen food aisles and were standing there in a blind stupor trying to navigate the unknown territory of the baking, produce and dairy sections.
I saw husbands and wives standing there reading the instructions on various Thanksgiving staples, and calling out ingredients to each other. There were poor lost souls in the baking aisle hopelessly trying to figure out if they needed baking soda or baking powder, and an actual traffic jam around the Brussels Sprouts!
It suddenly occurred to me, that, much like my mother, this was the probably one of only 3 meals (Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter) that they would attempt to cook "from scratch" during the entire year!
But once the harrowing experience was over and I was safely back home, a different emotion started to wash over me... I started to feel grateful.
I mean, here are all these people, who for whatever reason have decided that it's better to eat crap-for-food day in and day out.
Maybe they never had a Grandmother to show them what real cooking could taste like, maybe they're just too busy, or maybe their taste-buds are so corrupted by the chemical onslaught that they can't actually enjoy the subtle tastes of real food.
But somehow, I managed to escape from that world... I made my foray out of the frozen & canned food aisles years ago and have never looked back. In a very real sense, I feel like I get to eat Thanksgiving dinner each and every day, and for that, I am truly thankful!
So I'll leave you with a portrait of my grandmother... how very lucky I am to have had her in my life.
So how about you? Do you enjoy cooking from scratch? And if you do, who were your cooking inspirations?