Animal crackers

Growing up, I was the dessert maker.  I never learned to do much else cooking-wise, but I made great cakes.  We cannot live on cake alone, so I had to learn to cook “real” food when I married.

As a military wife, I learned 500 ways to cook ground beef. You soon deduce you are a bad cook when they would rather eat in the mess hall.  One dish I managed to perfect was “sh**-on-a-shingle.” This mess hall specialty consisted of creamed beef on a piece of toast.

As he made rank and we had more money, I learned how to cook dishes from many different cuisines. Hubby developed a taste for SW cooking after being stationed in CA.  Because Mom had learned how to make several Tex-Mex dishes while living in Texas, and a friend, Gloria,  was Mexican American, I learned how to cook Mexican style. When Gloria’s mom visited she showed me how to make tortillas from scratch. Yes, there was a time when you could not buy tortillas in grocery stores, and there was no cafe on every corner serving Mexican food.

After the hubby and I split, I was very poor, so I branched out and learned how to make vegetarian dishes (these were my early college years and it was the 1960s).  I also learned how to macreme and tie-die.  I bought the book Diet for a Small Planet and fed my kids yogurt-barley soup which they remember to this day.

Hubby #2 was German, so I learned how to make dishes with Bratwurst.  I found a slow-cooker dish that involved brats, sauerkraut and apples.  Because I was working on a grad degree and gone a lot, I made it often. Mostly we ate out in fine restaurants.  After three years, we split, both of us a bit heavier.

I then lived with a fellow who liked the Korean food his wife had made. He obtained a recipe for one dish from her, but whatever we made tasted like crap.  He went back to his wife and I moved on.

After I got a decent job that paid a living wage, I ate out even more: lunch with work colleagues; meals out on dates; potlucks at church.  However, I learned how to make Greek food I served guests who commented on my liberal use of butter in dishes like Spanakopita (spinach pie).

When I met David he cooked for me. However, later I learned he could only make one dish so we began eating out almost every night.  No, I am not kidding, we ate out almost every noon and night.  We both worked downtown, so we ate lunch together, hitting every fine restaurant in DC. I gained much weight and he grew thinner.

The past four years, I’ve been in Weight Watchers.  I took off 40 pounds and have been “maintaining” my new weight for about 2 years.  When I saw my doctor this week he said I need to lose 20 more pounds.  Yesterday, I visited Trader Joe’s, and I stocked up on veggies and fruits.  He says I can have animal crackers Saturday night!  (Today, we’re having corned beef and cabbage for lunch.)


Texas Chili, the way Mom made it.


20 thoughts on “Animal crackers

    • I was impressed with an elementary school friend, who in fourth grade knew how to fry an egg. He parents worked in the cotton mills and afternoons she was what we call a “latch-key” kid. I went home with her after school one day and she fixed us fried eggs for an after school treat. She must have been about 8 or 9.


  1. A story of a most interesting journey told through culinary efforts and adventures. Fun read. I have led a tame life in comparison, but by a certain age it seems we all come down to the fact that we have to eat more healthfully or else! (And we’re not ready for ‘or else’.)


    • I like chocolate eclairs and cream horns. In my twenties, I could eat a whole box on the way home from the commissary and never gain an ounce. By the time I began traveling to England in the 1980s and discovered English teas it was all over. I had hit my middle years and developed Middle Age spread.😂

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  2. I was the dessert maker also, except mine were pies. I never did get to cook anything else really until I got married and moved to the states. I think Gregg might have got a little tired of grilled pork chops, boiled potatoes and other vegetables because my first birthday here came around and he bought me a cook book. He still denies the reason was my rather limited cooking skills, and we laugh about it to this day. You became an excellent cook. I think my cooking took a little longer to hone. I’m curious, what was that one dish David could make?

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  3. This is a very funny telling of your culinary life journey.

    When we were first married, my wife felt she was obligated to feed me heartily. She would make lunches for me of 3-4 sandwiches with fruits and desserts. Evening meals were large enough to feed a family of five. I went from 179 pounds to 215 pounds in four months. Thankfully, she soon got over it. I’ve spent the rest of our 48 years of marriage losing most of that weight.

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