Don’t ask me to clean up the mess


I must have been feeling a little rebellious, and if you were to ask my parents they’d probably tell you that was my general state of mind during my high school years. Of course, I would disagree. But on this particular occasion I must have been feeling a little more so that way.

So, when some friends suggested that we should take a home economics class – Beginning Foods, I believe, was the actual name – rather than shop class our senior year, it sounded like a good idea to me.

It was the fall of 1978, the feminist movement was in full swing, and if I’m not mistaken our idea was precipitated by a female classmate who was about as rebellious as they come. She decided that she should be allowed to take shop class. So, it only seemed right that if she could take shop class, some boys should be able to take Foods.

I don’t remember how it all went down, but when school started that year Mrs. Kathy Levo had close to a dozen boys seated in her first period Beginning Foods class. And what a class it was.

I am certain we tested her patience more than once – like the time she stepped out of class for a couple minutes and returned to find us in the middle of a food fight – with butter serving as our weapon of choice. Why butter? I’m not sure. But we all must have had it nearby, it added an element of fear, and it made a really cool sound when it splatted against a target.

The fight didn’t last long, and that was probably a good thing. When Mrs. Levo re-entered the room she was not happy. In fact, she was angry enough that we never dared to try anything like that again. But all in all I think she enjoyed the change of pace, we did too, and she ended up being a really good teacher. In fact, most of us took Advanced Foods the second half of the year.

I probably learned as much in those classes, as far as things that I still use today are concerned, as I did in any other class. Maybe more. Except typing. I took typing because I thought it would be easy. I figured I’d rarely touch a typewriter after high school and college. Yet, here I am, typing again, like I have pretty much every day of my post school life.

But let’s get back to Beginning Foods. I took that class because I thought it would be fun. And it was. And it has stuck with me. Like how it bothers me everytime I see someone cooking on a stove with the pot handles turned toward the outside. Mrs. Levo taught us to always turn the handles to the inside of the cooking surface to avoid burns and other accidents. Or, when I go to the grocery, I never purchase anything but large eggs. Mrs. Levo taught us they were always the best buy for our money.

I even got my first public speaking experience because of Foods class. Little did I know when I signed up for the class that I was going to have to give a cooking demonstration at the county fair as part of my grade. I was so petrified of such a thing back then that I probably would have opted for shop class had I known that a public demonstration was requirement for Foods.

But I managed to get through my “Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies” demonstration, despite absolutely no help from my partner, and that experience was a big boost when speech class rolled around the next year in college.

I could go on and on, but you get the drift, and my cooking adventures actually begin well before high school.

My younger sister had an Easy-Bake Oven when she was quite young. She never used it much, but I did.

Sometime after that I took an interest when my mom baked cookies. She patiently showed me the ropes and at a pretty young age, if I ever got the urge for cookies, I could bake my own.

Caramel, too. Yep, it was one of my favorites treats. It took a lot of stirring to reach that soft candy stage on the thermometer, but I made lots of it growing up.

When it comes to tools, or working on cars, or things like that, I’m pretty much useless. But when it comes to cooking, I can handle just about anything. Just don’t tell my wife. And, don’t ask me to clean up the mess.

Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.

Jeff Gilliland Gilliland

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