Learning to cook by the book

When I got married, I had one culinary accomplishment - I could bake great peanut butter cookies. Of course, man does not live by cookies alone. But I figured that anyone who could read, could cook, so a few weeks before my wedding, I blithely bought a little hardcover cookbook, "Betty Crocker's Dinner for Two."

Happily for my spouse, my assumption that it could quickly teach me what I needed to know was correct.

I cooked my way from beginning to end of the book - learning to prepare barbecued ribs, pot roast, crab salad, biscuits, and apple pie.

My mother-in-law shared the secret of my husband's favorite potato salad (pour on the dressing while the potatoes are still hot) and tuna salad (use white tuna).

Then I added my mom's applesauce cake and macaroni salad to my repertoire.

In a few years, I'd graduated to making biscotti, seven-grain bread, and beef stroganoff with recipes culled from a number of cookbooks.

But when it came to initiating my sons into the world of cooking for themsleves, we turned back to Betty Crocker for the basics.

Our town didn't have culinary classes for young adults (see story at right), so I taught them myself, the summer before each of them left for college.

Both were amazed when fellow students complained about the cost and boredom of constantly eating out. They knew how to easily and inexpensively prepare a different meal every night of the week.

Ultimately, they became creative cooks who usually prepare meals "outside the book." But one thing remains the same - we all bake memorable peanut butter cookies.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

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