Sunday, August 11, 2013

Mama's Cooking Lessons

When I was six years old mama decided I needed to learn how to cook. I quickly learned about mama's recipes and they never came from a cookbook.
She never even owned a cookbook that I ever knew. My mama could cook anything she set her mind to and I had no clue.
The hardest thing I ever tried to learn was mama's pinches and such. I never in my life seen so many pinches and I didn't like that much.
A pinch of this, a pinch of that is all I ever seen. I knew I better hurry and catch on to the pinches or I'd be an old maid before I learned to cook cuisine.
She started out fairly simple with taters and she knew so many ways. There was never a day that went by we didn't have taters in different ways.
Let's see, one day we'd have em fried. the next day mashed and some we never heard of before. Mama knew how to cut corners when she was in a hurry, she'd stew them taters and leave us wanting more.
And cooking all of those other garden veggies was a piece of cake. When the gardens came in we lived more high than those hogs and the eatin was great.
I caught on quickly to all those veggies and consider myself a veggie chef today. It was the cornbread that really got me, so many pinches and there was only one way.
That cornmeal came straight from the gristmill, freshly ground. And it had to have just the right amount of each pinch or it was hog pen bound.
A pinch of baking soda and a pinch of salt, or was it two pinches each. That's where I run into trouble and couldn't remember how much to pinch.
Throw a handful of flour in to make it rise and Wha-la, bread fit for a king. The only problem was those hogs thought they were king.
I either put to many pinches of one or the other everytime or not enough. All I know is it wasn't worth two cents let alone a dime, it was bad stuff.
But mama was determined for me to get it down pat., said I just needed to keep on tryin and soon that cornbread would turn out alright but I doubted that.
By that time I'd about pinched all the pinches I wanted to, but I kept on going cause of me being the oldest, mama needed me to see her through.
With a lot of practice and plenty of luck I finally got the hang of making cornbread enough to get by. All the other stuff was fairly simple, even the biscuits I didn't dread and I loved to try.
Made some fine ones too, if I say so myself. They may have turned out rather large every once in a while but they always eat em with a big, old smile.
Shucks, I even learned how to build a fire in the wood cookstove. It was all we had to cook on, but I sure did get my hands burned a lot on that old stove.
And mama always said, clean up your mess as you go. That's why I learned to wash dishes standing in a chair, although I hated it so.
She'd tie an over size apron around my waist and put me up in that chair. It'd take me a while but eventually those dirty dishes would disappear.
Then when I grew up and married my sweetheart he taught me even more. Although he'd been raised up eatin and cooking the same as me he was an army chef and cooked army style galore.
He tried to show me how to make a pie crust and that was a total flop. I finally caught on after so long a time and him being kind, said it hit the spot.
I could hardly wait to tell mama how I made a pie crust and she was so happy for me. I could feel it in the letter she wrote back and her smiling face I could see.
Writing letters was the only communication we had back then. And with us living so many miles away on an army base, letters were my friend.
It was the first time I'd been away from my family and home. I wrote those letters daily and mama wrote them too, and it helped me to carry on.
Shucks, one of my brothers or sister would slip a few lines in every now and then, telling me how they missed my cooking and I couldn't help but grin.
But they never did mention my cornbread at all, I wonder why. Maybe it was because they didn't like the pinches either or they didn't care to try.
I still have those letters today and when I take them out and read them, oh the joy I feel. Especially when I read the one where mama asked me, how you likin that self-rising cornmeal.
Yep that was my mama alright, when it came to cooking and canning she sure did shine. I'm just thankful today she left all of her knowledge behind.
Now mama's cooking lessons might not sound like much to some but they sure have helped me out in more ways than one.
And cleaning up the mess and washing dishes may not be my favorite chore but I know how to get em done in a hurry, I'm a lot more faster than before.
Today I'm more grateful than ever that my mama taught me how to cook. I still use mama's recipes everyday and make up my own as I go along, shucks I don't need a cookbook.

Susie Swanson Copyright, 2013


  1. Very sweet memories. My brother gave me a set of "joke" measuring spoons one time, itsy bitsy with pinch, dash, smidgen, etc.

    1. Thank you Mildred. I sure would like to see those spoons. lol.

  2. Thanks for sharing the reminisences, Susie. It brought back memories of my own mother and grandmother. What we've learned from them is a blessing.

    1. Yes we have. Glad it brought back memories for you Connie. Thank you.

  3. What a wonderful, rich heritage you have, Susie! You are blessed.

  4. That was fun, Susie. I was told Grandma never really measured anything and I don't have any recipes of hers - she probably didn't use any.

    1. Thank you Janet. She probably didn't, not many did back then.

  5. Well now I'm hungry, Susie! Sweet poem with lovely memories. I can remember learning how to cook from my Mom too. :-)

    1. lol.. sorry to I made you hungry Daisy but you wouldn't want my cornbread anyways.. lol.

  6. Susie,
    I read this story almost to the end until I realized it was a poem. It was very interesting to me, so I just kept on reading haha. Your mama taught you well, and she would be so happy that you learned all the tricks to cooking. I smiled when I read a pinch of this and a pinch of that because that is how I cook today. I have been cooking for 33 years, so I guess I know all the shortcuts by now. Jess tells me that she has to measure everything, and if you tasted her cookies and baked goods, you would see why. They are so yummy. That is so nice that you kept the letters from your mom and brothers and sister and read them from time to time.

    You are truly a family person, Susie, and I'm so honored to know someone like you. Oh, and cornbread is my favorite too.....warm right out of the oven and butter.


  7. Thank you Sheri. I've wrote so much about my family one would think I would run out of stories but oh no they just keep coming. Maybe someday when I'm gone the younger generation will have them to look back upon. I love cornbread too, fresh out of the oven. Blessings and love to you.

  8. I have to clean as I go too, I don't know any other way! It's awesome that your mom taught you how to cook...there is something so special about putting your heart into what you cook...I have always thought about it as one of the ways I could share my love with my family:)

    1. Thank you Lise. That's the only way I know to do is clean up as I go. Yes, I'm thankful she taught me so much. I miss her but she's still with me each day.

  9. Hi Susie, I got such a kick out of this! There isn't a day goes by I don't think about my Mama and the cooking lessons she gave me too. It was such a special time we shared together. When I was 13 we were in a bad car accident and my mother was bedridden. She had to speed up the cooking lessons because I now had to make the meals for the family everyday. She taught me to cook from her bed. She would holler out instructions and could tell by the sound or the smell if I was doing it right. We would laugh and have such a good time. I still hear her voice in my head whenever I making certain things, especially fried chicken, "Turn the fire down baby, that's it, let it cook all the way through and then brown it real good and crispy!" :) Have a wonderful evening and good night's rest! With Love, Delisa :)

    1. Thank you Delisa. Your memories brought tears to my eyes. I'm so happy she was able to teach you. It's the little things we cling to the most and our mothers may be gone but they left a big part of themselves behind. Hugs and love to you .