Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal

Dear Hearts

Mickie McGee

I added a new cookbook to my collection yesterday in spite of the fact I hate to cook.

My family says I don’t have to admit it, however, since it is quite evident by the mystery meals I set before them on the rare occasions that I can still find my way to the kitchen.

“Mama,” my youngest told me as he put his arm around my shoulder. “You are the best mother in the whole world; you are the most talented, the kindest, prettiest woman I know. But you can’t cook worth a #*(%.”

I’m really not a bad cook, mind you; it’s just that after almost forty years at the stove I’m done with it.
For a long time I made quite a respectable showing in the kitchen, in spite of the fact that when I married I was a novice at cooking and couldn’t boil the proverbial pot of water.

Come to think of it, I couldn’t iron, sew, or use the washing machine either, but those are other very sad stories.

Like many other young marrieds in our day, we received as a gift a set of cookware and had it been a Multiplex GX520 hydrostatic computer, I would not have been more puzzled as to how to use it.

I never had to cook when I was growing up. Food miraculously appeared in front of me at mealtimes and I didn’t have a clue how it got there.

I do remember, in a fit of frenzy, frying some frozen shrimp one afternoon after school and it’s a good thing. Had I not done that, my poor husband would have starved to death the first year of our marriage. He hates shrimp to this day.

I do love cookbooks. Especially the family cookbooks, with all the tried and true recipes of generations past. My cupboards may be bare but, by golly, my bookshelf is full.

I have made my share of main dish casseroles (my boys hated them), good ole meat and potato meals, pies, cakes, and stews and have canned enough vegetables to have fed all the “starving children in China” my mama used to talk about.

I remember using that old guilt ploy with my own sons one night. “Listen, you two, you’d better eat all of that asparagus supreme. Think of all those starving children in China.”

I swear I heard one of them say to the other, “Well, I don’t know what them Chinese are havin’ tonight but it’s gotta be better than this.”

I have noticed lately that whatever culinary delight I prepare, my family smothers it in Tabasco sauce. Chili, steak, green beans, banana pudding, you name it. I’m beginning to get a complex. And they wonder why I don’t like to cook?

Just because I use the smoke detector as my oven timer is no reason to be cruel. I still have feelings, you know.

So I missed Home Economics the day they taught cooking. What’s the big deal? Besides, who’s to say peanut butter and jelly are not miracle foods? My family is healthy so I must have done something right.

We were all gathered together here at home recently for a holiday meal when my husband, eyeing the helping of yellow vegetables on his plate, asked, “What exactly is this?”

“It’s squash casserole,” I told him. “Why?”

“I just thought it might be good to know what it was in case I have to identify it to the doctor.”

Of course, laughter ensued but I was not offended. I know I’m a good cook. In fact, when I set my mind to it, I’m an excellent cook. One only has to look at me to know that.

I can make a mean pound cake, the best chili you ever tasted, yummy milk toast, a delectable sausage quiche, and potato soup to die for. Well, maybe that’s not such a good choice of words.

I’ve had some culinary flops, as well, like everybody else. Yes, I once cooked the paper packets inside a turkey; used 25 pounds of sugar trying to get strawberry jelly to gel; made a tuna casserole that glowed in the dark; and have never ever, gotten the crust to stay on country-fried steak.

But I guess after all is said and done, and all the smoke has cleared, though I’m clearly not Julia Child (or Tyler Florence), I’m not a total bust as a cook either.

I guess you might say that my definition of a successful meal is one where no one dies or goes to the hospital.

And with that in mind, dear hearts, after all these years as the underrated chief cook and bottle washer at the McGee house, I’m proud to say, “So far, so good!”


Mickie McGee is a Southern born and bred female, raised in a small town forty miles north of Augusta, Georgia. She has been married to a John Deere "veteran" for thirty-eight years and has two grown sons. Her childhood was chocked full of exciting, sometimes traumatic, events and thus, her penchant for writing about them. She writes a personal column,"Dear Hearts," in her weekly hometown paper and, at last count, had written some 340 of them. As far as she's concerned, one can only write (that is, with any passion) of what one has experienced, and she has experienced quite a lot in her half a century of living, and she gets a thrill each and every time a reader gushes, "I've been there, done that!"

© Mickie McGee

Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal ISSN 1554-8449, Copyright © 2004-2012