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Why I Did Not Teach My Daughter How to Cook and an ode to Rachel Ray


My daughter, Julia Lotholz, posted an ode to Rachel Ray on social media.

She kindly agreed, with some reluctance, to let me share her writing and a photo of her blackboard Kitchen Wall.

But first, let me tell you why my daughter’s kitchen mentor was Rachel Ray – and not me, her mother.


Why I Did Not Teach My Daughter How to Cook

by Marilyn Newbury

My Mom, while alive, cooked, baked, preserved food, decorated cakes and experimented.

No recipe was too complicated and no kitchen task too formidable:

Piano Birthday cake

A piano-shaped cake for my sixteenth birthday – my most favourite, ever – complete with white and black keys

Baked Alaska, with several layers

Borscht Soup

Cinnamon Buns, her specialty, often started at 5:00 am

Cinnamon Buns

Cinnamon buns may have been the last thing she baked.

In her final season of life, with her body ridden with breast and liver cancer, she still baked and delivered cinnamon buns – to the doctor during three rounds of chemotherapy and to the new neighbours down the street.

Stan and Audrey Fitz
My mom, The Gourmet Cook, and my dad, The Shredded Wheat Guy

When my mom was away, my dad was in charge of meals.

The menu was fixed.

Shredded Wheat cereal, the go-to-meal or snack, any time of the day or night

Canned tomato soup

A can of pork and beans, if we were lucky

Possibly a piece of mom’s homemade bread

That is not to say my dad was not involved with the household.  He parented us with loving firm discipline and was the primary taxi-driver to music lessons, often a weekly ninety minute commute each way. He took on side jobs to finance family camping trips, enlisting us as free labour to help build Westco grain elevators.

  • Father building Westco Grain Elevator
    Dad building Westco Grain Elevators so we could tent

But most of all, I remember my Dad, with his larger than six-foot frame,

down on his hands and knees washing the kitchen floor, often.

My parents made sure that we children also understood this principle of a common work ethic.  We weeded the garden, snipped beans, shelled peas, and cleaned toilets, learning early that chores were as much a standard fare as the delicious meals my mom served daily.

I carried this expectation of shared household duties into my marriage and parenting.  I created a rotation list of weekly jobs for our three children so they would learn how to clean – thoroughly.

(For years, until she had her own children, my daughter believed that the only reason I had kids was to have help with my housework.  Now that she realizes how much work kids are, she recognizes that if a spotless house was the goal, remaining childless and using the extra disposable income towards a housecleaner would be a more direct route.)

My husband, however, did not share this communal view of household tasks.  He had an excuse, a chronic joint disease, but even if he had been in perfect health, he likely would never have washed my kitchen floor on his hands and knees.  His father had modeled a different lifestyle; while he provided for his family by fixing chain saws and making colourful fishing ties, the only way he ever graced the floor with his presence was to lie down on it to relax.

Eventually, I became overwhelmed with managing our home:  three young children, part-time and full-time jobs, and all of the physical work to keep life running smoothly.

  • Dad with three young childre
    Dad showing the kids how to inspect a car motor instead of working in the kitchen!

I decided that my husband could do more, rheumatoid arthritis notwithstanding.

Logic dictated that this more would be in the kitchen, given my questionable expertise in this area.

Growing up, I helped my mom by doing mountains of dishes and making an occasional recipe, but usually I was told me to go practise the piano instead.  Maybe my mother wanted better for me, since she regretted her late start in music lessons, or perhaps she knew better than I that my passion would be found in music rather than in creative cooking.  In any case, kitchen skills were not my forte.

My husband liked to cook, and his meals tasted better than mine.  Besides, he even liked to test new combinations of recipe ingredients – sometimes.

I told him the ‘sometimes’ could become ‘always’.

He resisted.

The arguments in our Kitchen War flew fast and furious. 

In desperation, I stopped preparing meals, resulting in his hostile takeover of the kitchen.  After further non-negotiable discussions, and the added impetus of an empty fridge, my husband also agreed to do the grocery shopping.

Slowly, over time, my husband began to love his Kitchen Kingdom and his new role as the Family Chef.

He took his cooking to a new level when he regularly started concocting new dishes, including Dad’s Specialty, now a family goulash favourite.  Meanwhile, I was ordered out of the kitchen if I so much as tried to butter a piece of toast.  My children only vaguely remember me ever cooking or baking, and to this day, they are surprised if I manage to make anything beyond canned tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches.

I admit, culinary proficiency is not my talent.  My children are indeed fortunate that I did not teach them how to cook.

My daughter, Julia, inherited her grandmother’s cooking genes.  During her high school years – with assistance from Rachel Ray – she started venturing into Dad’s kitchen domain, trying different recipes with exotic ingredients.  A new Kitchen War ensued – a father and daughter competition.  The grocery budget escalated along with increased anticipation for the new diversified menu.

Today, all of our children and their spouses are fantastic cooks.  At family gatherings, I am not allowed kitchen entrance, except to wash the dishes, and perhaps to semi-annually wash the floor on my hands and knees.

Hummingbird Cake
Julia’s Hummingbird Cake made for Easter dessert
Julia's Buffet
An elaborate charcuterie board Julia made with a friend

an ode to Rachael Ray

by daughter, Julia Lotholz

Rachael Ray taught me how to cook.

there are numerous stories of ill-fated cooking attempts from my childhood, from feeding my brothers Cheerios soaked in water, to a near 3rd degree burn from making KD (I was reading an Archie Comic while stirring boiling water), to burning a plastic bowl full of raw chinese noodles onto the stovetop. I was destined to be the girl that was a disaster in the kitchen.

when I was 17, I took a semester off high school to travel with a guatemalan kids choir, and the tour ended a month and a half before the next semester began. a high schooler without a drivers licence, I was pretty well stuck at home, going stir crazy. I started watching the Rachael Ray Show every day at 2pm out of boredom, and eventually got tired of watching people eat food I couldn’t even smell.

so I started printing off the day’s recipe after watching her make it on tv, walking to the grocery store for the ingredients, and then trying my hand. my parents are wonderfully affirmative and appreciative when they taste good food, and it didn’t take long before the fun of setting a steaming dish in front of someone and watching their reaction became one of my favourite things on earth.

I still remember some of the recipes I made that fall, even if I only made them once.

My girl Rachael has never failed me (actually, once, with a blue cheese buffalo chicken chili that was a big ol’ pot of expensive disappointment) but otherwise, she’s the queen of quick and easy family style meals.

I still pull up one of her new weeknight recipes every few months to cook for the fam, in honour of the woman who’s never met me but taught me everything I know.

the first recipe of hers I ever made after watching it on TV: https://www.rachaelrayshow.com/rec…/15709_Sloppy_Taco_Stoup/
(I still make my own version of this on the regular, with an avocado salsa on top. We usually eat it with Tostitos scoops because what is life if not to be enjoyed?)

what’s on tonight: http://www.rachaelray.com/…/butternut-squash-sweet-sausage…/

Recipe - Food Picture and Wooden Spoon by Lotholz and Company
Rachel Ray’s Butternut Squash, Sweet Sausage, Gnocchi, and Sage prepared by Julia Lotholz

{that gorgeous wooden spoon in walnut is by Lotholz and Company}


Lotholz & Company is Julia’s husband Jeremy’s woodworking shop.

His beautiful woodworking creations are sold via his Facebook page.


Mother’s Note:

Julia and her mother-in-law, Ruth, are making sure that my granddaughter knows her way around the kitchen.

Granddaughter Baking
My granddaughter baking with Oma, her other grandmother

POSTSCRIPT

Julia’s dad feels he should be given some credit for teaching his children basic cooking skills, so here it is:

Thank you, Cliff, for teaching your kids how to cook. 

Hopefully, I am now vindicated.

Under no circumstance would I wish to jeopardize my daily breakfast in bed – graciously served by my husband!


Photo Credits:

Cinnamon Buns – pixabay.com

Shredded Wheat by Nick Saltmarsh  CC BY 2.0

Julia’s Kitchen Wall:  Julia Lotholz

Butternut Squash, Sweet Sausage, Gnocchi, and Sage, Hummingbird Cake, Charcuterie Board:  Julia & Jeremy Lotholz

Granddaughter Baking:  Julia &  Jeremy Lotholz


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Copyright of Marilyn Newbury.