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Cooking, My Mom, and My Future

Matty mentioned yesterday that Christmas is his favorite holiday whereas Thanksgiving is my favorite. Well, I think we're having a big influence on each other when it comes to the holidays. He really got into the Thanksgiving spirit this year and now I'm finding myself getting into the Christmas spirit.

I've always like Thanksgiving best because of all the cooking involved, at least that's how it's been with my family. I know, I know, lots of people don't like to cook, but it's one of the things I really enjoy.

My mom's about the best cook I know and when I was growing up I use to love spending time with her in the kitchen, especially during the Fall and Winter.

She's one of those cooks who can start with an idea about something she wants to make and then she starts adding things or changing things from a recipe she might be following. I always loved watching her cook. It was one of those times she reminded me of a little girl.

When she was in the kitchen, she was in some kind of Happy Land. I remember her saying things like, "Hmmmm, let's see what we can do with beef stew." Then you could almost see her ideas spinning around inside her brain as she would go to the cabinet and pick out three or four different spices she thought might be friends. It really was like she was doing some kind of matchmaking with those spices!

And believe me, the kitchen was her domain. That may be part of the reason I'm so protective of our kitchen now, in addition to trying to keep Matty from burning the house  down! Like I've said  before, he's only allowed to push the buttons on the microwave and get stuff out of the fridge, and I have to be in the kitchen or close by when he does those things! LOL. I'm really just exaggerating when I say that, but not by much! 

Being in the kitchen with my mom was also a time when we would open up to each other about things on our mind. While I was busy stirring things in a bowl and she was busy chopping celery or peppers, I could talk to her about personal things that were going on in my life. I would tell her about what was happening in school, how I was getting along with certain friends, stuff I was worried about, movies I liked, things like that. Not really earth-shattering topics but things that were on my mind.

She would tell me things about how she got along with her parents or stories about how she dealt with things when she was my age. Then, sometimes right in the middle of throwing some ingredients together in a bowl, she would stop, look at me, and say something like, "Did I ever tell you about when I skipped school in the seventh grade?"

Those were the moments I always waited for. I knew she was about to either tell some secret, or something about her past I had never heard before. And it always ended up being something either funny or mildly shocking, not bad shocking, but just something kinda surprising I never knew about her before.

We also use to tell each other jokes while we were cooking. And we had this one game we played where we would sorta invent a new joke. One of us would start things off with the first sentence of a joke and neither of us would have any idea how the joke might end up. We would go back and forth, each just adding one sentence, until it was pretty clear what the punch line might be. If we got stuck, we'd agree to revise some sentence in the joke, like add another character or change the situation they were in, and the story would take off with a life of its own.

I have no doubt that's where I got my love of cooking. Making up recipes, talking to my mom when we were both the most relaxed of all, and then eating and enjoying all those dishes we came up with together.

I've been thinking for a long time about "what I want to be when I grow up." My dad's a lawyer so naturally I've thought about that. But I honestly don't think I'd be any good at it. I know there's a lot of creativity involved in being a lawyer, like how to take some situation a person's in, think about what all the different laws have to say about it, then think about how you're going to put a case together and hopefully help the person. But it just seems to require a certain way of thinking that makes my head hurt when I think about doing it myself. 

I guess it's no surprise that I'm about 90% sure I want to be a cook or a chef or do something connected to cooking. I want to finish college first and get that basic degree, but I'm seriously thinking about going to a school where I can learn about culinary art. Nothing is written in stone, of course, so I might end up doing something else. One thing I know for sure is that I like to read a lot and cook, especially baking. Those are two strong passions I have. Maybe I'll end up being a chef and writing cook books, who know? That way I can combine both things. Or maybe I'll eventually own a restaurant. When I think about all this, I get really excited, so I guess that means something, right?

Anyway, I have some time to think this all the way through. In the meantime, I'm getting ready to do some more cooking for the upcoming holidays. Maybe I can now add Christmas cooking to all the Thanksgiving cooking I love to do.

Matty's getting excited about what kind of gifts he wants to buy our families and our friends, so while he's out shopping, maybe I'll have time to think about making up some new recipes. I also like it when he sits in the kitchen with me while I'm baking. We've had some really fun conversations and, of course, he's always staring at that icing in the bowl, waiting to lick the spoon. I'm starting to really get into the holiday spirit now.
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