When I was a little girl my parents had a hard time getting me to eat anything, especially foods that were yellow. Eggs, bananas, squash, cornbread… I turned up my nose at all of them until my father got the idea to use food coloring to dye them blue. While that took care of the yellow foods, he was at a loss about what to do with green foods like beans, spinach and peas. My father would be surprised to learn I grew up to be a gourmet cook, but now I’m the one who’s surprised. More liked shocked…
Am I the only one who’s lost interest in cooking?
In addition to yellow foods, my mother knew how to fix meatloaf, liver and jello with cottage cheese, so it’s no surprise I wasn’t interested in food. When I married my first husband—the president of a public company who took me to five star restaurants around the world—I realized I needed to up my food game. Thank you, Betty Crocker! She taught me the difference between searing and sautéing and that aside from entertaining his little brain—I learned that one on my own—red meat was the way to a man’s heart.
After I mastered soups and stews we met the River Oaks Boys, a group of Houston guys—lifelong friends—who’d learned to cook from their nannies. Women named Bertrice and Suzy Pearl whose legendary culinary skills qualified them for sainthood. On the weekends my husband and I would join the River Oaks Boys at one of their Texas ranches where they showed me I just thought I’d learned how to cook.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I had “Diana Ross hair,” and this was after I got it cut. I’m wearing a camouflage jumpsuit the Army gave me when I drove the M-1 tank, boots to help protect me from rattlesnakes and copperheads, and I’m holding an Uzzi machine gun. Hey! It was Texas. In the 70’s!
My first husband in the back of a Jeep. Nice Stetson!
Some of the River Oaks boys looking for armadillos in the canyons while the lasagne baked.
In between fishing and poker and reading the elder lady of the ranch’s x-rated diary—on the shelf next to the blue, toile canopy bed where I slept—we would take rare bottles of Louis XIII Cognac and a couple of Jeeps, including “Rusty Red,” which was older than I was, out for midnight varmint busting in the canyons. The rest of the day the River Oaks Boys made exquisite dishes like lasagna with homemade pasta, “velveted veal” and béchamel sauce; butter fried chicken; the best beer and bourbon pinto beans this side of the Mississippi; bacon and cheddar waffles with jalapeño maple syrup and hot buttered rum. The recipe for that came from page two of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
I went from being someone who ate to live, to someone who lived to eat. I became a staunch foodie!
What a perfect fireplace screen for a Texas ranch where the owners loved to cook!
It wasn’t long until I was showing up with a Le Creuset paella pan to make Spanish paella with Valencia rice, yellow saffron threads, prawns, paprika, littleneck clams and chicken, or Caldo Xochitl, a yummy traditional Mexican soup with shredded chicken, avocado, cilantro, tomatoes and rice and Julia Child’s Beef Wellington with Madera Sauce.
For the next 30 years I continued to cook fabulous food and host New Year’s Eve and Fourth of July bashes—at our Spy House on the Hill—which were really excuses to try new recipes. Then after my second husband died in 2010, cooking was no longer fun. I had no interest in going to that much trouble just for me.
Two of my girlfriends, both named Sue, live alone but still cook dishes for themselves. Even with a bad back, “Houston” Sue makes chicken stock from scratch and “San Antonio” Sue is always encouraging me to cook recipes from Ina Garten. One of our summer favorites is Ina’s Corn and Avocado Salad.
With the exception of my morning protein and fruit smoothie—the color is so gross you wouldn’t drink it on a dare—for the most part, my diet these days is limited to neutral-colored, prepackaged things like Thai sesame noodles or Sonoma chicken salad from Whole Foods. Not anything to raise the foodie flag over, but at least they don’t have harmful things like Blue dye #1.
Do you still like to cook… assuming you ever did? If not… What do you eat?
Your article struck a cord with me. While I still enjoy cooking for dinner parties and neighborhood pot luck get-togethers, we eat ‘point’ in the evenings….meaning whatever you point to in the refrigerator is yours to eat! Many nights that might mean an apple and a piece of cheese or maybe a handful of nuts, but life and meals have become much simpler.
Judy, I love the concept of “point” meals. I eat much less than I used to and every meal I’m focused on getting enough protein or my energy level plummets. Nuts, cheese, avocado… Yep! I can do that! Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment, xoxox, Brenda
I too used to love cooking, and it took me about 10 years to beef up my skills in the kitchen. Some of my fondest memories of my life with my late husband centers around us working in tandem in the kitchen.
Drinks in hand with music as our backdrop.
My saving grace is my 18 year old grandson that came to live with me a year ago. After a dry spell in the kitchen I am enjoying cooking again, otherwise I would be relegated to nibble foods.
Wow, Diana Ross hair indeed!!
Arabella, Your comment reminded me a a blog post I wrote some time ago called, “Dancing in the Kitchen,” where I also included a playlist. Like you, I would drink wine, listen to music while I cooked. Great times! https://1010parkplace.com/dancing-in-the-kitchen/ Sounds like with your grandson you have happy times, once again, in the kitchen. Blessings! xoxox, Brenda
Ooh, I will check it out. Thank you
I cook but it is a bit more of a chore now.
Hi Hilda! Yes, I eat to live now… The foodie in me has taken a backseat to easy meals. xoxox, Brenda
Like you Brenda, I love to cook and taught my self to be a gourmet cook back in the seventies. I absolutely love to cook. Unfortunately, neither of my husbands knew how to cook so they followed the rule that if you don’t cook you get to clean up!
I am single again and although I still love to cook, it just is no fun to cook for one! I still read gourmet magazines and buy all of Ina’s latest books and read them from cover to cover. And occasionally a group of girls will come over and I break out the silver, China and crystal and have a blast!
But cooking for one just isn’t very much fun, especially the cleanup! But who knows, perhaps that tandem cook who loves to sing to old rock and roll songs as we dance around the kitchen (ala Big Chill) is around the next corner! For both of us!
I can’t wait for the publication of your book!
Hugs and kisses!
Hi Sweet Lady! Two days in a row I get to see you here! I like that. Neither one of my husbands cooked either, but the best cooks I’ve ever known are the two guys in my photo who are running to catch the armadillo. I learned so much from them, and they’re still the best cooks I know. One of them lives here and not long ago I fixed lobster tacos on soft, homemade flour tortillas, with pico de gallo and Monterrey Jack cheese. They were soooo good and messy! We ate them standing over the kitchen sink with a bottle of Negro Modello in our hands. Thanks for the encouragement about my book. I think I’m going to have to take some time away from my blogs and work on my book full-time. It’s hard to be a weekend writer because it takes me half a day to get back in the groove. I just hope all of you won’t forget me if I disappear for six months. xoxox, Brenda
My Betty Crocker cookbook looks just like that! It’s how I learned to cook. My MIL used to say “if you can read, you can cook.” I’ve since moved on to Ina and others, but I have to thank Betty for teaching me the basics.
Suzanne, I agree with your MIL. Betty Crocker made cooking so easy. You can see how much I used it. The spine of the book is missing. Do you make notes in your cookbooks? Recipes I want to make again I sometimes tweak and leave notes about “more lemon or salt” with comments like “Great!!” Thanks for leaving me a comment!! I appreciate you! xoxox, Brenda
It’s mainly my husband and I at home now. We have a daughter living in NY and our son at a Texas college a couple of hours away. I am having a blast cooking for two. I am finally making meals that I enjoy and I don’t have to consider whether my kids would like it. I enjoy recipes from Cooking Light (sadly no longer in print) and Eating Well. I eat lots of fish and seafood. I love summer veggies, especially okra from my backyard. Of course a delicious wine from Fredericksburg typically rounds out our meal. Buon appetito, y’all!
Hi Gina! You grow okra? Yum!! Summer veggies are the best. You might like Ina Garten’s salad I linked in my post. And some of Fredericksburg’s wines are very good. My friend, Kathy, works at Becker Vineyard in the tasting room. Where do you live? I’m in San Antonio. xoxox, Brenda
I live in the suburbs of Houston not too far from Johnson Space Center. Lots of excitement and happenings going on there this week. I have a small backyard with a Meyer lemon tree, an Adriatic fig tree, an area for my okra and lots of potted herbs. I had so many figs this year! We could not eat them fast enough. I canned 14 pints. Recently, our front yard was landscaped and we put in two olive trees. We enjoy the wine tastings in Fredericksburg. Tonight we are having a Becker Tempranillo Reserve. I like Andreucci as well. I get to speak a little Italian while I’m there!
Gina, Wow! You have everything I’d love to grow!! A couple of years ago I had fresh figs off the tree in Tuscany. Oh, my stars! I never thought about growing a fig tree of my own. I have a small Meyer lemon tree in a pot in my courtyard. The first year it gave me five lemons, but I wasn’t here to eat them. My house sitter said she wasn’t very impressed. Last year they gave me two, and I didn’t like those. I’ve started using organic citrus fertilizer on it, but think I should transplant it into the ground. Will research that. Thanks for the idea! xoxox, Brenda
I LOVE to cook! My husband is often my souse chef, and he’s pretty good at grilling, too. Especially this time of year when everything is fresh from the roadside farm stands. We have several farms here and I love to support them and buy fresh veggies daily. I never learned how to can but, I know how to freeze so, there’s always something good in the freezer!
Barbara, How great to have someone who does the grilling. That’s not my specialty, probably because I always had one of the River Oaks boys around who were my “meat masters.” There’s nothing better than fresh fruits and vegetables from a roadside farm stand. Earlier this year I feasted on fresh beets, corn on the cob and tomatoes that tasted like real tomatoes, not those pretend tomatoes in the grocery store. Now I’m hungry for fresh veggies!! Thanks for reading and leaving me a comment, sweet lady! xoxox, Brenda
Wow , I do enjoy reading your blogs , what a crazy , exciting life you have been living , your a wild one girlfriend… I really just started cooking , what I like , after the nest emptied .. with kids it was always “what will the kid eat “
I do need a recipe and love cookbooks .,if you take a blogging break , we will be here when you come back !!
Hi Renee, You’ve given me a huge gift with your comment! Thank you!! I’ve been worried all of you would forget about me if I stopped blogging to work on writing my book, but it’s become clear I can’t do both. xoxox… I have a great recipe/cooking site for you. https://whatsgabycooking.com Signup for her newsletter and be prepared to drool. She has great menu and recipes that aren’t complicated and the photos are beautiful. Thank you, again! Love, Brenda
What a great post, Brenda! I was fortunate enough to meet my partner of 25 years in my mid 40s. After we retired, aside from gardening, cooking has become our favorite hobby. We live in Brenham and have family in San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Galveston so we are able to get together at one of our homes to cook and bake up a storm on a fairly regular basis, always with a wine glass in hand!
Hi Janelle, So happy you met your partner and life is going well for you! One of the River Oaks boys ranches was near Brenham. Sometimes I would drive into town and cruise the antique shops. That’s a beautiful part of Texas!! Just love it!! xoxox, Brenda
I’ve gotten uninspired with cooking. I enjoyed cooking when I went vegan after cancer, and loved all the spices and herbs. When I started working I didn’t have the energy to chop and cook so much. My mom will be moving in with us, and she loves cooking. Hoping it motivates me and I get inspired again. And Brenda, dear, we will joyously await your book and your return to your blog! We love you, sweet lady!
Hi Beckye, Hope all goes smoothly with having your mother live with you. That’s a sweet and brave thing to do, and it’s sometimes what’s needed. Bless you! Thanks for weighing in about my blog versus the book. I sometimes think I just need to be more disciplined, but regardless, time has a way of slipping away. Thank you so much for your love and support. xoxox, Brenda
I never, ever entertained, except for immediate family, until we move to Carmel, CA 10 years ago. In my 70’s now and I love to cook and entertain! Joined a bookclub when we moved here and get to cook for 10 at my house when it’s my rotation! Invite the neighbors, clients and friends at the drop of a hat. The best part…I use all of my best dishes, china and silverware for everyday and whenever there’s an excuse to set the table. No use keeping the good stuff in a box! I’m blessed, my husband is the shopper and the best best souse chef! I didn’t know what I was missing and will enjoy this as long as I can!
Linda, That’s quite a change to go from cooking for family to entertaining with “the good stuff” for your book club. Carmel is such a gorgeous place. My next Brenda’s Blog is about someone who’s in his 70’s and moved back to Carmel. You might know him and his wife. She manages a coffee shop there. xoxox, Brenda
Well, I’m reading this while I’m waiting for something to come out of the oven! I have 9 coming for dinner tomorrow, I enjoy cooking for my family and our get-togethers always include a colorful and tasty meal that I make. My husband does the outside grilling but I do all the rest, planning, shopping, preparing, indoor cooking etc. It’s not too bad, and I enjoy how much everyone enjoys the food! That part is my favorite! When it’s just me, I usually grab something and throw together a gluten free pasta dish or a salad. I’m blessed to be able to always have a very full pantry and my fridge is usually pretty crowded too. I grew up around men who cooked, and my dad and mom both loved to make food and make it look pretty and taste really good. I do cook more on a daily basis now that my daughter is back from college. Amazing how much food one more person consumes! I try to prepare more of a complete meal with her home now, I guess to provide some sort of model for her when she moves away! Because I cook from my heart and rarely use a recipe, I need to pass on my “food wisdom” to her!
Hello Heidi!! Cooking is in your DNA! I loved cooking for the same reasons… people liked what I fixed so that in itself is motivation. My refrigerator is never full and I’m lucky I can make it from day to day, like today… a frozen pizza and a salad. I am fixing gazpacho tomorrow, and I’m looking forward to that. Do you have your daughter help you in the kitchen? That might be fun and inspire her! xoxox, Brenda
That photo of you is totally badass. Bravo!
I learned to cook when I was in the Peace Corps in Africa. No electricity or running water…or fridge. All fresh ingredients. Best carrots I ever tasted. I rigged up an oven by putting a layer of rocks in a huge pot; it went on the fire and I put a smaller pot with brownie batter inside and put a lid on it. I also baked bread and pizza that way, but the little neighbor kids would come by and sing chocolati for me to make brownies. In general, though, I pretty much lived on stir-fry.
I just cooked up a storm for a dinner party last night, and loved it. But the twice-a-day slog of meals is less thrilling. Leftovers help.
TOF, LOL! Totally badass! I like that. I was the only wife and/or girlfriend at that time who went out with the guys in the Jeep, day or night. It was more fun than staying in the house with the other women what watched TV. The land on all of these ranches was so beautiful. I know that’s where I got “land fever,” and that was something my second husband and I shared. We both wanted to live on the land, and we did. The Peace Corps in Africa!! My word! Now that’s badass as well. You were really roughing it. How long were you there? I agree with you about the twice-a-day meals being a drag, but like you, I can gear up to fix something special and have people over… Not as much as I used to, but I still enjoy it. Thanks for sharing your story! Love knowing that about you. xoxox, Brenda
Love the pic of you in the camo with the hair. You have led such an interesting life. And no worries…if you take a break, we’ll be looking for you when you return. 🙂
My mom gave me that same red Betty Crocker cookbook before my first marriage. Mine has a fair amount of duct tape holding it together. I thought of buying one in better shape on ebay but decided I love the memories of that one. My DD made the oatmeal raisin cookies many times, and each time she would look for another symbol to help her remember which ingredients she had added. So it’s covered in lines, check marks, stars, etc. LOL. And the stains on some of my favorite pages just make me happy.
I’m the cook here, because I need to eat healthy, and if DH is in charge, we’ll be living on take-out pizza and little steaks. No veggies or fruit. So you can see why I do my own cooking. Or we eat out. Probably too much, as I do tire of it some days. But as others have said, a glass of wine and music make the task more enjoyable.
Hi Laurel, I bet our cookbooks look very similar. As you can see the spine has long since disappeared, and like yours, mine has spots and stains and my notations on the inside. The fact that they’ve been used and loved is what makes them special. I sometimes used the Joy of Cooking as well. That’s a great “how to.” Music and wine make cooking fun! They’ve been my helpers since my first husband and I moved into the Spy House. Cheers! xoxox, Brenda
I love to cook, but sometimes I’m just to tired or didn’t plan the groceries properly; so over the years I’ve learned how to make nachos out of anything !!!!!
Hi Sweet Friend!! Your post makes me laugh because it’s so true! You can make nachos out of most anything. Hope all is well with you. I don’t remember the last time I was in the store. I order everything online. I’ve gotten so good at it, which isn’t necessarily a good thing. It used to be I was just tempted when I would see you! xoxox, Brenda
Hey Brenda – From one big hair babe to another, I love your blog!!! My husband and I just moved from Manhattan to a wonderful big open spaced apartment in Bronxville. The kitchen is huge and once again I am cooking. I’m in it for the adventure. I’ve made friends with the folks at the farmers’ market, and every Saturday I come home with some new delight to try. How about some olive oil from Modena Italy infused with blood oranges? Pour it over vanilla ice cream and you’ll be transported back to your 5 year-old self licking that Good Humor creamsicle on a hot summer’s day!! I’m hoping to use the kitchen to make some new friends here. My kitchen is now big enough for 3 or 4 big butts to get in there and laugh it up as we cook and tell stories – and you know just what I mean. Here’s to a new chapter for all of us. May it be rich in friendships and good health. Can’t wait for your book!! Cheers from hot NY. – Ellen
To Ellen in Bronxville!! Hello, sweet lady! I’m so happy you like my blog! Yes, I do know what you mean. Wish I were closer. I’d come over and cook with you. That sounds like fun! I love how you’ve phrased it that you’re “in it for the adventure.” Food has always brought people together, regardless what age they are, so I have no doubt you will continue to make new friends. That’s quite a change, coming from Manhattan. Thanks for supporting me if I make the decision to step away from blogging to work on my book. I’ll let everyone know what I decide. Thank you again! xoxox, Brenda
I love cooking for my family and learned how to cook after I married because I didn’t want to have to cook growing up…I had enough chores beingbtge oldest! I feel I’ve blossomed as a cook because my family (husband,son and grandsons) are so complimentary. My kitchen is tiny 7’x5’ but my love for making a good meal is enormous!
Evie, Cooking is love, and it flows both ways. Your family appreciates what you do for them and your cooking and they let you know. In return, you continue to create fabulous meals and show them love. Sounds pretty perfect to me. My kitchen at the Little House when I lived at the ranch was about the size of yours… maybe smaller. The refrigerator was in the laundry room on the back porch, and I didn’t have a dishwasher, but I’ve never been happier than I was when I lived there with James. Keep turning out “deliciously decadent” meals…. Just answered you about tomatoes on FB. Loved your comment. xoxox, Brenda
I stopped cooking when my husband stopped eating back at the beginning of Nov. He passed in May and today I made a broccoli salad the first thing I have made since Nov. I used to love to cook but now see no point.
Victoria, I’ve been wondering about your husband. If you told me he passed away in May, I forgot. I’m sorry. You’ve been through a lot, and you’re grieving for the life you lost. I know what that’s like. It took me a longtime to find my footing after James died. Obviously that didn’t make me start cooking, again, but I started taking better care of myself. I always love seeing you here, so please keep me posted on how you’re doing. xoxox, Brenda
I still have young kids so have to cook but I hate it because my kitchen stinks. My husband promised me we would get a new one when we bought this house…5 years ago! I’m still waiting. My mother was a gourmet cook but ever since my dad died 4.5 years ago she has stopped cooking, I don’t think she has turned the oven on. Or the stove. She will heat stuff up in the microwave and she will go out to eat. That’s it
HI Lauren, I can identify with you and your mom. My first husband wouldn’t redo the kitchen in the Spy House and one of the River Oaks boys… the dark-haired one, wearing white jeans… used to give him a bad time about it because I was such a good cook. Now that I’m alone, it’s just not rewarding, or any fun to cook for just me. Maybe you can do some little things to your kitchen like painting the cabinets that will help. That’s what I did. I sympathize. xoxox, Brenda
Having been a single Mom, then a single woman, until I was 52, I always cooked for us, and loved to cook. I have noticed that desire to cook has diminished lately, but I think it’s because I am feeling tired. Sometimes it’s because I’m just sick of my own cooking! To stay inspired, I try a new recipe a couple of times a month and I browse through Pinterest often. And every once in a while, I make an OLD favorite!
Donna, It just struck me that most people get to retire from their job, but as the cook in the house, we never get to retire. I think that may play a role in losing interest in cooking as we get older. It’s time for a break! I hope your energy comes back after your strokes. I haven’t had a stroke, but it took me a longtime to return to full speed after treatment for breast cancer. xoxox, Brenda
Oh Brenda, we’re so alike. You should see my collection of cookbooks. I’ve got tons. It’s another obsession. And this is after I have donated 100’s to our local library. Cook? You’d better believe it. I’ve studied with the best and cooked tons. But I’d just read your blog when I went to the refrigerator and what did I have for lunch? A 2 day old 1/2 of a tuna sandwich. I’m right with you. No time to go to the market and no time to cook. My husband would love to just have a pill to swallow for dinner. So he really doesn’t care and I’m busy learning Lightroom and creating a book of my husbands career directing for the Airforce when he was a young man. Yep, right with you kiddo.
Sandy, A pill to swallow for dinner!!!! I LOVE THAT IDEA! The closest I can get to that is a smoothie with protein powder and almond butter on cranberry walnut bread from Whole Foods. I remember seeing you on the Clash of the Grandmas on TV! That was so great!! Working on a book of Bob’s work for the AF? I love that idea as well. xoxox, Brenda
Its so interesting to me to read all these different points of view on cooking. Does everyone have that old Betty Crocker cookbook! lol Not a cook when I got married that was a wedding shower gift and has been well used. When first married I found myself having to throw small and large dinner parties. Wow, that was difficult. In those days, I never would have thought to go out and buy already made, oh no everything had to be made from scratch. I took some huge risk trying new recipes on people I barely knew….I can only remember a few misses so not too bad. Anywoo, I got to be a pretty good cook, but now I can’t say I enjoy cooking anymore. However, I’m married to a foodie! I’m very thankful he cooks as well, so we take turns in the kitchen. I think what turns me off about cooking now is how we have to watch what we eat- all the good stuff cream, butter etc….so always looking for healthier recipes can be a drag. My two cents worth.
More than two cents, Jeannette! Isn’t it interesting that so many of us had the same Betty Crocker cookbook, but then other than the Joy of Cooking and Vincent Price’s cookbook… I have that one as well… we didn’t have a lot to choose from. No wonder Julia Child was such a hit, simplifying French cooking for American cooks. Yes, it was trial by fire, because we didn’t have lots of places, other than restaurants, we could buy ready made dishes. I’m with you about having to watch what we eat. Spinach, kale and chocolate have been taken away from me… they cause kidney stones… and everything else is fattening. Ninety-five percent of the time I’m so good about my diet, but the other five percent, I go berserk! xoxox, Brenda
Yikes Brenda…..chocolate and kidney stones! I’m sure you mentioned that before but I guess I didn’t want to hear it. I really have to cut back on this one. Like you I can be so good and for whatever reason be totally off healthy eating.
Jeannette, Earlier this year I had three, painful kidney stones, and I lived on handfuls of spinach or kale in my smoothies and 70+% cocoa chocolate bars and then POW!! The first stone woke me up in the middle of the night, and I bolted upright out of bed. So… I’m trying to be good although a few chocolate chip cookies have found their way into my mouth… xoxox, Brenda
I haven’t had an interest in cooking for a long time. I cook generally on Sundays, but that’s it. Hubby works late on his scheduled days so it’s just me and a can of soup or a frozen pizza will suffice or he will grab something on the way home. On days he’s off we go out to dinner.
I try not to lean on frozen pizza too much, Rena, but it’s so easy. Make a salad and you have all your food groups. My favorite frozen pizza is Amy’s. xoxox, Brenda
YES, I COOK but NOT COMPLICATED THINGS AND I LOVE THAT BAREFOOT CONTESSA!!!!!!!!
Elizabeth, Of course you do! She’s another Contessa!! And both of your are great cooks and wonderful hostesses! Hope you’re still having a Happy Birthday week! xoxox, Brenda