Published in the Rains County Leader on August 8, 2017:
David and I go to a home group Bible study every Friday night. We meet at somebody’s home and share dinner before we study. I post a sign-up sheet on WikiSpaces every week, and we take turns bringing various parts of the meal. Friday was my turn to bring the main dish. One of the men was planning to order egg rolls from the mother of a co-worker, so I decided to stay with the theme and make teriyaki chicken. I had never made it before, so I went on-line and found a recipe that looked fairly easy and tasty.
I’ve been cooking since I was eleven, but for years, I cooked like I lived—very carefully. I was so afraid of making mistakes or being criticized that I made sure I knew how to do things right before I tried anything at all. In cooking, I always used a recipe, and I rarely varied from it. When I was still a novice in the kitchen, I remember going through Mom’s recipes and proudly announcing to my best friend that I had found a recipe for mashed potatoes. She laughed at me for needing a recipe for something so simple.
I was single-again for ten years before I met David. During that time I met Mary, and she and I became best friends. I was still pretty rigid in the kitchen, but Mary was very creative and also a gifted hostess. She could turn a simple snack into a feast by adding a dab of dip or dressing for extra flavor and a paper doily for presentation. By watching her, I learned that I could start with what I had on hand and create something wonderful instead of starting with a recipe and then looking to see if I had the ingredients.
She also never had a failure in the kitchen – not because everything she cooked came out perfectly but because she looked at what others might have considered a failure as an opportunity. Once when she was hosting a luncheon, her pecan pies stuck. Instead of becoming flustered like I would have, she dumped them into a beautiful crystal bowl, stirred them around, added a bit of whipped cream, and served pecan cobbler.
After I married David, a man who loves to eat, his enjoyment encouraged me to experiment even more. Over the years, my approach to cooking has changed. My collection of spices has broadened, my favorite measuring tool is the palm of my hand, and you never know what might end up on my table. One of my specialties is what David calls clean-the-fridge soup. I start with a basic vegetable soup, add whatever leftovers are in the refrigerator, and adjust the seasoning accordingly. The result is economical and delicious, and it never tastes the same way twice.
I still have failures now and then, but I’ve learned to turn most messes into successes. Friday was one of those times. I followed the recipe for teriyaki chicken fairly closely except that I forgot the fresh ginger root, so I used ground ginger. I also added several cloves of garlic, because everything is better with garlic. The chicken cooked up nicely – tender and moist – but I was not at all happy with the sauce. I strained it which helped with the texture, but it was still way too thin. A couple of tablespoons of corn starch took care of that problem, but the taste was a bit bland. Time was getting short, so I added a bottle of stir-fry sauce from the pantry and decided it would have to do.
When I was younger, my approach to life in general was a lot like my tactics in the kitchen. I had an idea of how things should happen, but reality didn’t always match my preconceived notions. I learned after many years of experience that, in life like in cooking, it’s best to take what you have on hand and see what good things you can come up with.
By the way, the teriyaki chicken turned out well. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, and the hostess, who is an excellent cook, asked for my recipe. I just smiled and said, “Oh, it’s an old family favorite.”
The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. Proverbs 16:9