Adventures in Cooking

My sister-in-law Margie posed with her childern Ted, Rich, and Kristen before her untimely death.

Margie (top right) and her three wonderful kids, c. 1990.

My sister-in-law, Marjorie Forsythe Overholt (not to be confused with my mother, Marjorie Carter Overholt), was a terrific cook.  She claimed, however, all one needed was to follow the recipe.  I’m sure she was being overly modest; lots of people follow recipes without great success. (raises hand)

Margie had the most amazingly organized brain.  Being a math major and high school math teacher probably had something to do with it (or vice versa).  Once I opened a cupboard door in her kitchen to find a hand-printed calendar of evening meals planned out for the month.

My nephew Ted (top left) wasn’t quite so impressed, though.  He said she may have been a good cook, but they had the same thing again and again.  That may be true, but that’s how the majority of us live.  We have 20 or so recipes we use in a somewhat cyclical fashion.

For example, growing up, our Sunday dinner alternated between pot roast and fried chicken.  Then there were the standard meals in between.  The ones I remember most fondly are pork chops with rice and onions (possibly my favorite—besides my mother’s pigs in blankets 😉 ) and liver and onions (probably because I liked it, whereas my dad and brother did not).

When I finally moved out of the dormitory during my senior year of college, my problem wasn’t how to cook, but what to cook.  No one taught me how to plan meals.  Enter my savior, The Campus Survival Cookbook by Jacqueline Wood and Joelyn Scott Gilchrist.  The book featured not only detailed instructions on how to cook, but also provided four weeks worth of meal plans, including side dishes and shopping lists!

I think I tried nearly every entree in the book, even those that didn’t appeal to me, such as MyCrystle’s Survival Casserole (I’m not a big fan of cooked tomatoes).  However, I passed on several of the side dishes.  (I still hate peas.)

The book was written in 1973, before the horrors of saturated fat, cholesterol and carbohydrates were well known; and geared towards young male college students, who generally didn’t care about such things anyway.  When I left college and started working, I pulled out the book again, but the recipes were too rich and the portions too big for me for my slowing metabolism.

Still, there’s goodness to be had.  I’ve decided to give the ol’ Campus Survival Cookbook another try, this time substituting healthier ingredients, or finding healthier recipes in some of my other cookbooks.

Once a week, I’ll take a menu from the book; try to adapt it into a kinder, gentler (i.e., lighter, healthier) version; and share the results here.

I have no preconceived notions of how this experiment will work.  Will it get me back into the cooking habit?  Will I find enough enjoyable recipes to rotate without getting bored?  Will I improve my health?  So many questions.  Let’s hope there some good answers.

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