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My mom got me in the kitchen for the first time when I was eight years old. I had decided to try a foods project for 4-H, and I remember the first thing I made was an orange smoothie. From there, I progressed over the years and watched Mom as she made homemade meals for almost every time we sat down at the table

I gained many skills from those years in 4-H and helping Mom in the kitchen. When I left for college, I felt prepared to cook plenty of meals when I wasn’t on the school lunch plan. Mom wrote out many of my favorite meals in recipe form and gave them to me to use. Over the years, those have become quite discolored and worn out from so many uses. I’ve made notes on some of them, tweaking amounts or adding some extra spice as needed

Of course, there are any number for which I don’t really need to look at the card anymore. I can make tater tot hotdish without consulting a recipe card. The same goes for chili or tuna casserole. However, I will still usually pull them from my recipe box, just for nostalgia if nothing else

Unfortunately, I’m not as successful as my mom was at making as many meals from scratch. Busy schedules and running different directions has prevented that. I wish I could make a homemade spaghetti sauce more often, but it’s usually Ragu or Prego. Pizza dough that I mix together and spread out is always preferable to opening a Tombstone pizza and tossing it on the pan. To make a big pot of chicken noodle soup using chicken breasts and broth and vegetables is amazingly better than Campbell’s

I’ve started watching some of those cooking shows on TV in recent years. Many years ago, we used to watch the original Iron Chef, the one that voiced over the Japanese language so English speakers could understand. It was fascinating to watch these highly-skilled food clinicians use a theme ingredient to make a number of different dishes in about an hour

More recently, I’ve picked up on MasterChef Junior and Guy’s Grocery Games. It’s simply astounding to watch kids ages 8-13 whip up souffles and salmon dishes and feed hundreds of people in a restaurant setting. Naturally, Gordon Ramsey is a draw on the show since you’re never quite sure how he’ll react when things go wrong, though he’s normally much more reserved around the kids than he is with adults on other programs

My mom didn’t teach me a bunch of fancy techniques like these kids use, but that’s okay. She taught me how to brown ground beef and balance when you start different parts of the meal. Here’s how much salt and pepper to add to the hamburger and how crisp to get the bacon. Still, I’d love to eat what they’re serving most times on the shows

However, one thing I’ve started to think about is how much food is wasted. The judges never eat everything on each of the plates. I can only imagine the rest gets dumped. That’s a lot of food! I’ve read that on Triple G, in which contestants shop from a fully-stocked grocery store, Guy Fieri, the host and creator, donates most of what’s left in the store to local food shelves. That’s pretty outstanding, but I still see a lot left on dishes. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to put all that effort into a meal and then watch a few forkfuls tasted before tossing the remainder

I’m especially attracted to Fieri’s show because of the many years I worked in a grocery store. It’s fun to watch the people on the show race around trying to find the ingredients they need; plus, Fieri throws in twists from time to time such as making certain aisles off-limits or making them use odd ingredients in their dishes. But they always manage to pull off something out of this world

Am I envious? A bit, I suppose. I enjoy being in the kitchen and crafting a meal. It’s great to put something on the dinner table that my family can’t wait to dive into. Every cook enjoys hearing compliments and watching others enjoying the fruits of their labors. I can’t do what the great chefs can, but I try to do what we all know our moms and grandmas did and put a little love into my dishes. I might never make beef wellington, but I’ll take a down home hotdish any day

With that in mind, I feel a tater tot hotdish brewing for supper tonight!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is opisthenar, which means back of the hand, as in, “The chef burned his opisthenar when trying to flambe some plantains.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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