I was watching the movie “Kung Fu Panda”. Spoiler alert. Po’s father says:
To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special.
There is no special ingredient.
I was reminded of a story from my childhood. My Gramma Ruth was a fantastic cook. She had over 200 cookbooks and had tried almost all of the recipes. She could cook Chinese food, Mexican food, Indian food, French food, Greek food, food food; but best of all, she cooked Comfort Food. She made lentil soup, beef stew, mashed potatos, lasagna – hearty food for Chicago winters. Of course she was obese (Never trust a skinny cook.) and unfortunately, she developed insulin-dependent diabetes. However, her holiday feasts kept our family together and after she died, we stopped having contact. The cousins didn’t visit anymore. It was sad.
One of the foods that everybody loved was Gramma Ruth’s Ranch Dressing. It was so creamy and had real dillweed in it. Mmm. The aunts tried every year to get her to divulge her secret recipe, but she wouldn’t! She was funny.
Shortly after I graduated from college in 1988, Gramma took me aside and told me that I was a big girl now and she was going to give me her secret recipe for the Ranch Dressing. I was so excited! I have always been a poor cook because I am too lazy to clean up the cooking messes. I prefer to cook in one pot or even better, a crockpot. You put the ingredients in it, sometimes you stir it, and then it cooks itself for six to eight hours. Perfection!
Gramma looked around to confirm that we were alone, put a finger to her lips like Santa Claus, and said, “Sshh.” Then she took a store-bought packet of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing out of her squirrel drawer and showed it to me. I was aghast. No! My Gramma was a liar! OH MY GOSH. This is not possible. Did my Gramma really pass off Hidden Valley Ranch as her “secret recipe” for the last twenty years?! We made the dressing and it was delicious. She set it on the holiday table and my cousins fought to be the first to get to eat it. Yep, she fooled them all.
I had no idea that my sweet grandmother could be so naughty. I looked at her in a whole new light and she was even more beautiful than before. She taught me my first great lesson about being a woman and a wife: that I could be duplicitous. To make the people who I loved feel special, I was allowed to tell lies. I used this knowledge for my first dinner party as a grown-up woman. I was living in Memphis and I had very little money. I offered to cook for my roommate and her boyfriend, and they were so excited. I made spaghetti with Italian sausages, using a jar of Ragu sauce and Kraft parmesan cheese in the plastic shaker; and I bought some kind of pre-made salad from the grocery store deli counter. The trick was to transfer all the store-bought food from the plastic containers into my own dishes so that it would look homemade, and then I got rid of the store containers. Hehehe. It worked like a charm. My guests loved the meal. They said everything was delicious and they felt so special because I had cooked homemade spaghetti sauce from scratch just for them. We shared a bottle of cheap red wine and felt like millionaires. That was a good night. To make something special, you just have to believe it’s special. Well, Gramma Ruth believed that all her grandchildren were special and it became true. Thank you for loving me and teaching me how to love others. You were an amazing woman.
“Love: There Is No Special Ingredient.” is copyright © 2014 by 18mitzvot. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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