Food From Home

Cooking at home for fun, health and frugality!

Memories: Home Economics

I was thinking about what I want to do with this blog. I don’t really want to just post recipes and nothing personal. Lately I’ve started listening to podcasts while working in the kitchen and one that is really interesting to me is The JV Club with Janet Varney. On the podcast Janet talks with a female guest usually about their teen-early adult years. It has really made me think about my teenage experiences, my teenage daughter’s experiences and life in general.  Check it out.

Inspired by that podcast, I’d like to post about some of my memories occasionally. I was a quiet, introverted, shy, artsy, nerdy girl growing up. Art, reading and cooking were my big interests. I also liked roller skating. I was convinced I’d have rocket powered roller skates as an adult instead of cars. As an adult I concede that cars are more practical and probably safer.

If you read the About Me section you know that although I was interested in cooking from a young age and the results were not always very good. I don’t think my mom appreciated me making a mess in the kitchen. I recall her saying more than once that I could help best by leaving her alone while she cooked. She also wanted me to do silly things sometimes like put my book down and go play outside. I think she was most comfortable with me in the kitchen as I became a teenager… or she just gave up!

Home economics was still a thing taught at schools when I was growing up. I don’t think it is now. I was in junior high in 1986-1988. My  junior high school offered a home economics class. Most girls and a few boys took it. For one section of the class you learned to sew and the other section was cooking. In 7th grade the sewing project for everyone was an apron. In 8th grade you had to choose a clothing pattern. I chose a skirt and learned to hate sewing a zipper in and the seam ripper. The sewing teacher told us stories about someone getting their hand caught in a machine. I still think of that and shudder every time I sew. I don’t remember anything we cooked in the cooking section. I remember being lectured on stuff like food safety and cleaning but not actually cooking. Maybe we made toast.

In high school (1988-1992) the home economics classes were divided up. You could take Foods, Sewing, and Personal Development I believe. Personal Development was a class where kids got to carry around a bag of flour or an egg for a pretend baby. I didn’t take that or sewing. I took Foods every year. In my freshman year the first thing we were going to cook was a pudding pie. I was really anxious as I had only made instant pudding. I begged my mom to practice making a cooked pudding at home before the class. Class day came and I was feeling more confident.  The pudding pie turned out to be instant pudding in a graham cracker crust. I felt kind of dumb and let down. We did eventually cook actual foods using an actual stove. Time limits were something of a problem. We learned to read through our recipe before cooking. We had to copy the recipe out onto an index card. We had to make a shopping list for every recipe. We learned to put dishes in a sink full of soapy water and clean up as we cooked.

The Foods class was a bit like a club. A lot of people took it year after year. We interacted more than other classes so it was fun. One time we had kind of an open house for other students and teachers to come sample snacks we had made. My partner and I made cheese straws for that.

I think it was my junior year that one of the boys in my class killed himself. He had been drunk and was playing around with a gun and shot himself. It was the first time a kid I knew died. Many kids were drinking and stuff and it didn’t seem like a big deal. He had always been a really lively, jokester person in the class. It was very shocking… maybe that is why I still don’t like drinking, drugs or guns. The school counselor came and talked to our class and I remember people crying and just feeling kind of sick and hollow.

Well, that got serious and sad.

My mom was working at a store when I was in high school and my dad worked 2 jobs. My older brother and sister had jobs. I started cooking dinners for the five of us. I would read cookbooks but mostly made what my mom told me to make- meat, potato, canned vegetable. It was not a meal without a potato! I think timing, anxiety, and perfectionism were problems for me to overcome in the kitchen. I don’t know if home economic classes made me a better cook than I would have been without them but definitely left me with some ideas and habits that I carry with me still.



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