This discovery of how much I adore all things food related is a recent discovery--within the last three years. It's crazy how influenced I was by my environment. My maternal grandmother, Jean, couldn't cook. There were multiple horror stories of "Jean's cooking disasters." I grew up thinking that calamity happened anytime a "non-cook" attempted to make pie crust from scratch. My Mom, who could cook, wouldn't cook. We ate burnt fish sticks and soggy chicken patties every night for dinner, thank you very much, and enjoyed it! My Mom informed me pointedly that all women had much better things to do with their time than cook. Eating poor food without complaint became an indirect proof of my own feminism.
So at age 18, I age I ate microwaved Apple Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal for breakfast everyday with Instant "Café International" Coffee. On a rare occasion I had an Eggo Waffle. For the entire time I was at Law School, I ate $1 "Budget Gourmet" Microwave Meals every night for dinner. When I got married, I was a girl who completely on food from the frozen and convenience aisles.
I've got to say, that being on a shoestring food budget ($100 a week for 7 people--breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks) has been AWESOME for my cooking skills. God really knows what he is doing with my life. Because I couldn't afford to buy the same food that I was used to eating as a child, I was forced to improvise. As our family grew and our income stayed relatively flat--I had to get crazy good at grocery shopping.
The shocking thing for me, is that as our disposable income for groceries went down, the qualities of our actual meals went up--dramatically. On Monday we ate roast chicken with lemons, rice, homemade gravy, broccoli for dinner and had "snowflake" chocolate cupcakes for dessert. My husband said "Some people only eat like this on Christmas Day, we eat this way all year!"
At that dinner my kids started raving about my cooking skills (I recently mastered both the art of gravy and chocolate icing. Instant hero status!), I told them "This is all God. I was not this good of a cook when I married your father!
Life is so good! It's really a journey. When I went to Smith College at age 18, I was happy it was the alma mater of Betty Friedan and Gloria Steinem. Now I'm happy it's the college of Julia Child, Barbara Bush, and Sylvia Path. We're an eclectic bunch, we Smithees. I'm happy to be finding my way as a cook, an economist, and a writer inside humble West Virginia--the heart of the "Farm to Table" Movement.
(My unsolicited advice for eating well on a nothing food budget is $1.95 egg cups from Crate and Barrel. A soft-boiled egg every morning is an English Breakfast Tradition. I can't believe how fun this breakfast is for both adults and kids.)