In case you missed it, The Times-Gazette rolled out a new feature last week. It’s called “In the kitchen with Sharon,” and so far has featured recipes, along with a little story and picture about them, from Sharon Hughes, the advertising manager here at the T-G.
The hope is that in the future members of the community will send us recipes, and maybe a little story and/or photograph to go along with them, that we can share with our readers. From what I have been told, Sharon already has a number of people lined up to join the fun.
What she doesn’t know, probably because I have not volunteered the information, is that I, too, fancy myself as a somewhat skilled cook. Or at least I did once upon a time.
In my much younger days, when I wasn’t playing ball or raising some other kind of ruckus in or around my parents’ home, I liked to dabble in cooking and baking. It was usually in the cooler months when there wasn’t much to do outside and I was bored, or when I had a craving for caramel, which was my specialty. But I was pretty good at making chocolate chip and “Spritz” cookies, too, and I once made “Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Oatmeal Cookies” for a demonstration at the Highland County Fair.
My mother says I got my start helping her make Spritz cookies, which we then took to church members or people she knew in Lynchburg, often when they were maybe down on their luck or going through a tough time.
Spritz cookies were pretty easy to make. We’d throw some basic cookies ingredients together, load them into a cookie press with an attachment that could create all kinds of neat little shapes, then pop them in the oven. We’d take them out, add some icing, some sprinkles, or maybe both, and head out wherever we were going.
I preferred eating the dough raw, but raw or cooked, I really liked those Spritz cookies. I suppose that I had watched and helped my mother make them enough that one day, when I got a hankering for them, I decided to make some Spritz cookies on my own. So I did. That led to chocolate chip cookies, which led to caramel.
And the one thing I liked better than Spritz cookies was homemade caramel. Give me a day or two and I could have devoured a whole pan of it by myself. For the record, I preferred my caramel cooked, then kept frozen in the freezer.
Because of my fondness for the treat, some of my kids and grandkids became connisseurs of caramel, too. And whenever we enjoyed some, I’d tell them about my caramel making days. The thing is, I am relatively certain that my oldest grandchild — the one with whom I have shared the most caramel experiences — doesn’t believe I have ever created it.
So just the other day while I was visiting my parents, I dug out my mom’s caramel recipe. As I was writing this column, I called my wife to see if she knew what I did with it. My grandson’s father answered her phone. When I told him what I wanted, he said, “You mean that stuff you tried to make back in the ’90s? I’m pretty sure you burnt it black.”
I’m pretty sure he’s mistaken, or more likely was just messing with me. But then again, he could be right because it has been a long time since I made caramel.
My senior year in high school, when one of my female classmates decided she should be allowed to take shop class (and was granted the opportunity), several of us guys decided we should be allowed to take “foods,” class, which hitherto had only been open to girls. The school officials relented, and some of us went on to take “advanced foods.” It was one class we were actually interested in, and once we even made homemade braided bread.
I have told my wife often of my adventures and great creations in foods class. Her comeback is that she has never seen any evidence of it.
That is, until something needs fixed around the house. Then she says I must have taken foods, because it is obvious that I did not take shop. Then she calls the repair guy.
Jeff Gilliland is the editor of The Times-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 937-402-2522.