At the age of 31, I became a single mom.

When I was home alone, I would be perfectly happy with a baked potato or a bowl of Ramen.  My diet resembled that of a college student.  But I was also about as broke as a college student at that time. I had just gotten a divorce and bought my own house.  I am a teacher, so my income was steady, but covered just the basics.  My daughter was only 4, so she was happy with chicken nuggets and mac and cheese, as are most 4 year olds. 

Then, I met my husband-to-be and self-proclaimed foodie. 

He was not satisfied with my boxed meals and microwaved potatoes. I love to cook, but I never took the time to make anything special just for myself.

When my dear and I started dating, he requested several meals and desserts to challenge me.  I give him credit for pushing me into the kitchen and honestly critiquing my skills.  I am a much better cook because of him.  

For my first birthday gift to him he requested an apple pie (from scratch)!  

Now, I’m OK at cooking meals, but I suck at baking desserts.  I can’t even bake brownies from a box without getting them rock hard.  I’m not someone who eats sweets very often, so it was hard to practice baking. Having so little experience with desserts made it very challenging for me.

However, I did manage to make his apple pie.

I sweated my way through making the pie crust (from scratch) and baking it up nicely.  He approved of the pie and has been challenging me with new requests since. So, to my dear husband, I say thank you for inspiring me and ask the all important question, “What’s for dinner?”.

I can’t begin talking about life in my kitchen without first acknowledging the impact that Ree Drummond has had on my cooking “career”.  It may sound crazy thanking someone who you only know from the screen in your living room and who definitely doesn’t know you back.                         

I was first introduced to the Pioneer Woman through her guest appearance on another cooking show I watched regularly. 

She was so down-to-earth and relatable.  I began following her blog and became hooked on watching her show.  I learned so many tips and recipes from her.  

Even now, when I want to try something new, I start by searching the Pioneer Woman version of whatever it is.  Many of the tools I use in the kitchen were inspired by Ree and watching her show.  

It is true what they say:

“The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”. 

Thank you for helping me win over the love of my life.

When my little Bud was younger, we would watch the Pioneer Woman together at naptime.  He requested it more than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.  Thank you Ree, whether you see this or not!

Last but not least, I have to thank the women in my life who came before me and left all too soon, having all passed away by the time I was reaching my culinary potential  

I grew up eating home-cooking by some of the best cooks in the world (in my humble, yet biased, opinion).  My mother and my grandmothers all had their own specialties.  

I regret not spending more time under their feet in the kitchen.  I encourage my kids to be in the kitchen as much as possible, helping cook and learning to use kitchen tools.  My belief is that it helps them develop life-skills beyond being able to feed themselves. 


So, thank you MawMaw for always having fresh fruit cut up for me while a pot of something hot simmered on the stove, like veggie soup with noodles. 

Thank you Grandmama for Sunday dinners and for always trying to feed me whenever I would visit.  Her cornbread salad is a unique mashup of layers of cornbread, veggies, cheese, ham, and ranch dressing.  EVERYBODY loves it when I recreate that one!

And thank you Mama for showing me how to cook using whatever was on hand and always making my favorites. She made the best meatloaf, salmon croquettes, and mashed potatoes.  Yes, they are basic, but they mean “home” to me.  

The kitchen is a magical place in my memories and in my daily life. 

It is where we all come together, where we talk and share about our lives, and where we nourish our bodies and souls.  My Life Between the Dishes revolves around these times and I am thankful for these precious moments. 


Originally published on Life Between the Dishes.

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