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by Susan J. Decuir

Growing up in Dallas, Texas in the 1950s, I loved baking with Mom: chocolate chip cookies, Christmas cutout cookies, fried apple pies, cakes, etc.

In 1959, I was twelve when I saw an advertisement on the TV by the Imperial Sugar Company in Sugar Land, Texas offering a free cookbook for children. Besides enjoying baking with Mom, I loved getting free stuff. And receiving my very own mail made me feel all grown up.

Right away I grabbed a pen and paper and wrote a letter to the Imperial Sugar Company requesting my free copy of My First Cookbook.

Several weeks passed when my cookbook arrived at our house in north Dallas and I could hardly wait to try out the recipes. As I flipped through all 36 pages, I chose to try The Quickie Cake first. The recipe was easy enough that I didn’t need Mom’s help. It turned out to be my favorite cake. The Brownie Broiled Frosting recipe that went with the cake surprised me with an explosion of delightful new flavors that tantalized my young taste buds. Circus Cookies, a simple version of peanut butter cookies, was loved by all. It’s the most stained and rumpled page in the book.

To this day, my gently yellowed childhood cookbook—held together with Scotch tape—has a coveted place among the plethora of cookbooks that fill up one pantry shelf: Healthy Cooking, Asian Cooking, Mexican Cooking, The Joy of Cooking, Good Housekeeping Cookbook, a 1971 copy of Betty Crocker’s Cookbook, American Cooking, Christmas recipe cookbooks, microwave cooking, and a plethora of newspaper recipe clippings and recipes from friends and family throughout the years.

When I married, mashed potatoes and potato salad were my expertise. Potatoes were Mom’s favorite. Everything else became an experiment. Like flaming steaks under the broiler, gummy pasta, and tasteless vegetables. I didn’t know about seasoning. I eventually got the hang of it and my family never went without. Though now my husband tells me that I always overcooked the roast. Oh well, my grandchildren like my tacos, chicken and dumplings, and desserts. Baking sweets is still my favorite.

But now that my husband Ron has been retired for ten years, and as I age, I am growing weary of cooking, so our homecooked meals get simpler and simpler. Like cod fish out of the freezer, a baked sweet potato, or tuna casserole. Thankfully, we both like to eat out several times a week. One of the joyful benefits of aging.

Thank you, Ron. And as always, thank you God for food.

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