I don’t know how the conversation started, but somehow this week I found myself discussing whether home economics is still being taught in today’s institutes of higher learning.
I had my first experience in learning to be a good little homemaker in my home ec class when I was in the sixth and seventh grades. I remember Mrs. Cornwall was the name of the teacher who came around once a week.
The school was too small to have its own home ec instructor, so we had to share Mrs. Cornwall with other area schools.
The very first project we attempted was to make an apron.
I don’t see many women wearing aprons now. They’re usually worn more by men who like to show off their skills laboring over a hot charcoal or gas grill, and there’s always some cute saying written on the front, such as “Real men don’t use recipes,” or “Mr. Good Looking is Cooking.”
If course there are lots of pockets on front of the apron so that the grillmaster can have all his necessary tools ready at a moment’s notice.
During the time I was taking home ec, housewives were wearing button-up-the-front house dresses as their daily uniform.
Unless she was going to church, my grandmother always wore an apron over her housedress. It tied in the back and had two large pockets on the front. She could always pull a handkerchief from one of the pockets if any of the grandchildren needed to have tears or a runny nose wiped.
And the pretty flowered print from which she sewed the apron, usually came from a flour sack.
During the ‘30s, flour companies began to put flour in colorful print cotton material. Soon ladies were making dresses, aprons and clothing for their children from these flour sacks.
The scraps could sometimes end up stitched in quilts. I have one my mother made and there’s one print on the quilt that was used to make a dress for me when I was young.
However, my mom bought new material for my apron. I did manage to finish it, but I don’t think I ever used it.
I gave up sewing when the first zipper I sewed into a dress was stitched in wrong side out—and the zipper was in the back of the dress.
The next thing I was taught to do in home ec was to make a milkshake. I can’t remember all the ingredients because I never tried this again.
But I do remember that it contained a beaten raw egg. Even in that time when eggs were fresh from the farm, I couldn’t make myself swallow a drink that contained raw egg, and I didn’t even know that it could contain Salmonella.
Needless to say, I was not an A-student in home ec.
And I was even worse in learning cooking skills from my mother. We had a tendency to bounce off each other when we were in the kitchen together, and she was not the soul of patience.
Furthermore, my sweet mama hurt my feelings dreadfully when she laughed until she cried when I served my best friend a large slice of the first cake I had ever baked.
It wasn’t my fault that I didn’t realize I had added salt instead of sugar to the cake, and it wasn’t my fault that Janet blew cake out of her mouth halfway across the kitchen after her first bite.
Mama could have been more considerate of my feelings.
In spite of being traumatized by my mother in the kitchen, today I feel like I may have achieved a little “goddessness.”
Last night, my son Jeff asked me if I remembered the recipe for my version of goulash that was one of the favorite recipes for my kids when they were young.
My chest swelled with pride and confidence as I held my head high and answered, “Of course I do.”