Cooks and Chefs

I’ve been a cook since I was seven years old. My mother did not want to let her eldest child into her kitchen. To this day I do not know why, but know it was not safety, I’m thinking companionship and mother/daughter bonding. Heaven help us.

When I kept the Betty Crocker Boys and Girls cookbook I was lent by the local library and garnered $.32 in late fees I had to take it back and apologize and use more than half my allowance to pay for the transgression. Three weeks later my parents bought me a new book, same name, and I started cooking.

Not cooking, really. I was not allowed to use knives or heat. I peeled some carrots and placed them in ice water in the refrigerator to curl up, and that they did. I served them to my grandfather and he called them “suicide carrots.” He was just making fun of me as many men do today, my husband says they like me. I give food and rarely ask the employees here for anything. Some folks have everything delivered and have dog walkers. I pick up packages and walk our own dog 4X per day when my husband is traveling for work.

I started reading Gourmet magazine in high school, a dear family friend had gotten Mom a lifetime subscription, I read it after she read it. Then college, first jobs, post-grad I was in politics (thought I was in policies), lobbyist, consultant to non-profit organizations and veteran volunteer I was insecure in my own skin. I quit the rat race after lobbying and paid my life savings to go to a good cooking school.

Chef? No. Good cook, yes. Think about “Chopped.” I would be too nervous on camera to function. That means my brain would not process the four items in the basket and once I figured it out I would be already in the weeds. Frozen. That’s me in front of a camera or 250 people.

My Dad was always on stage. He even danced on stage with Ginger Rogers once, after she gave the line that she danced with Fred Astaire but “backwards and in high heels.” He got her off-stage on that one, but played the fiddle, classical violin but fiddle also and called square dances to pay tuition and be the first kid in his family to ever go to college. I was second fiddle trying to make him and anyone else I worked for look good.

I’m a good cook. Everyone knows me and my food. First, they know the dog. “It’s Zoe!!!” Now, sometimes I hear “that’s Zoe’s mom.” Fourteen years of that and finally they recognize me. Cooking school changed my life. It made me walk around the aisles of a great grocery and only head into the interior for rice, soy sauce, chicken broth, sugar or flour. I get my spices elsewhere and even go to an Italian grocery for OO flour for my homemade pizza dough. Yes, we have MYOP every once in a while. I make dough, all the toppings and the kids roll their individual dough and make their own, then before they go back to grandma and grandpa’s they make their own dough to refrigerate overnight.

I love teaching. A psychic once told me I would be a teacher. I already was a teacher and had been since I started teaching gymnastics at age 14. I just didn’t know it. What she (a birthday seminar gift) did not tell me is that I would marry a physicist! No, not a psychic. Keep cooking. Take something good and do a riff on it. Dee



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