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The Joys of Cooking

Never let it be said that you no longer cook (unless there are extenuating circumstances). So many former cooks have announced, “Kitchen is Closed.” But they are missing out on one of the most rewarding pursuits that we seniors can enjoy.

Cooking in the solitude of your own kitchen, whether it be out-of-date and weary or streamlined and up-to-date, can bring joy untold. You can turn on some beautiful music, spend some time in prayer (not necessarily for what you’re cooking), plan imaginary trips to exotic lands far away, replay that bridge hand that you went set on the other day, compose the first draft of that poem you’ve had in your head for so long, watch the birds outside your window, and you can… well, of course, cook.

Unlike some hobbies like Bingo or football watching, when you cook you have something to show for your efforts. And please don’t say, “I can’t eat it all.” There again is a wonderful opportunity-share. Take your productions to a sick friend, to a covered dish supper or even call in some friends for a nice meal. They’ll be ever so appreciative and it’ll make you happy all inside.

If penny pinching is necessary, you can still cook all you want to-just do it in an economical way. If steaks that cost $15 a piece scare you to death, consider making a wholesome meal of economy cuts of meat, dried peas or beans, homemade cornbread and maybe a delicious egg custard for dessert. Good food is easy-it’s not the cost, it’s the method of preparation and the quality of your ingredients that are so important.

One of my favorite dishes to serve guests, or to take to the church supper, is Macaroni and Cheese Unsurpassed. Years ago I found this recipe that turned out to be the favorite of my children and grandchildren and when I was going through the decoupage stage, I decoupaged it to a miniature red paddle. That way it has lasted indefinitely and is always leaning right there against the microwave so I never have to search for it. Since it occupies a more prominent spot than any of my thousands of recipes, I guess you’d have to say it’s my favorite. But you’d have to say it-my recipes are like my children-I don’t have a favorite.

Macaroni and Cheese Unsurpassed

  • 4 cups cooked macaroni (8 ounce package)
  • 2 tablespoons butter, cut in pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups grated sharp cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 cups milk

Heat oven to 350º. Combine macaroni, butter, cheese and seasonings. Place in greased 1 1/2-quart baking dish. Combine eggs and milk; pour over macaroni. Sprinkle with paprika or buttered crumbs or put grated cheese over the top. Bake 40 to 50 minutes.

Nothing goes better as a side dish with macaroni and cheese than green beans. A good many years ago I was at a dinner party with my congressman and his wife. He enjoyed this bean dish so much that the hostess laughingly chided him for overindulgence but I think he wasn’t the only one who overindulged. The beans were out-of-this-world. Later they submitted the recipe to the highly coveted “Congressional Club Cookbook” and the recipe has made its way into homes all across America.

Bean Bundles

  • 2 (16 ounce) cans whole green beans, drained (or you may blanch fresh ones until crispy tender)
  • 12 to 16 slices bacon, cut in half, crossways
  • 1 (8 ounce) bottle commercial French dressing ( I use Good Seasons Italian dressing)
  • 4 to 5 whole pimentos, cut into strips

Arrange green beans in bundles of 8, wrapping a half slice of bacon around each bunch. Place beans in a 13×9×2-inch baking dish. Pour dressing over beans. Cover and chill for 3 hours. Bake uncovered at 350º for 40 minutes, turning beans after the first 20 minutes of cooking. Remove beans from dish with slotted spoon. Garnish bean bundles with strips of pimento before serving.

Keep cooking-it is a joy. They knew what they were doing when they named their cookbook “The Joy of Cooking”. Give it another try and I’ll keep the recipes coming for you. Macaroni and Cheese and Bean Bundles are only two out of my thousands and I’ll be sharing lots of them with you. So shine up the pots and pans, move the house plants off the top of the stove, arrange to store supplies somewhere other than in the oven, get your apron on and let’s bring that joy back into our lives.

by Louise Dodd

About the Author

Louise Dodd has written more than 1500 food columns and spent over 40 years in relentless pursuit of the ultimate culinary experience. She shares it all in “Eating from the White House to the Jailhouse,” her book of recipes and the stories behind them.