SHARON RANDALL COLUMN FOR Tues., Sept. 27, 2011

First, you make a sauce.
Long ago, when I was learning to cook, those five words would have sent me running to the phone to order pizza.
I got married at 21, had never boiled an egg. Cooking was the one chore my mother never let me try. Fine with me. I figured if I could read, I could cook. Isn’t that why God made cookbooks?
So at 21, I traded a wedding gift blender for “Joy of Cooking” and a fancy apron, because not only did I want to cook good, I wanted to look good doing it.
Yes, I was young.
Then I pulled back my hair, put on some Stevie Wonder and proceeded to peel, chop, dice, blend, beat, batter, bake, broil, steam, poach, saute, stir fry, spill, splash, butcher, burn and blaspheme pretty much everything I touched.
The apron went in the rag bag. The kitchen floor looked like scorched earth. My fingers were permanently scarred.
But slowly, over time, 20 years or so, I learned to cook. I’m not great, but I do all right. We never go hungry and I seldom feel a need to follow a recipe.
I still love cookbooks, but only for browsing. Whenever I get an urge to cook, I take one out, turn a few pages, and wait for the urge to pass.
Imagine my delight, while visiting my son and his wife and their 1-year-old, the Firecracker, when my daughter-in-law asked me to teach her how to make white chicken lasagna.
I’d made it for dinner one night and everybody liked it, even the Firecracker who rarely likes anything edible.
“He ate it!” she said. “You have to show me how to make it!”
Showing is lots more fun than telling. But I had to leave, so I promised to send instructions.  Here they are. It’s easy.
First, you make a sauce. Melt a stick of butter in a pan. Chop an onion and a clove of garlic, cook them in the butter until brown. Sprinkle with a half cup of flour, stir until smooth. Add three cups of milk, stirring until it’s thick like, you know, a sauce.
Stop. Go get the Firecracker, who just woke up screaming from a nap. Strap him in his high chair and give him your cell phone to distract him. Be sure to turn it off so he can’t dial 911.
Oil a 9×13 baking dish. Pour a little sauce in the pan. Lay three uncooked lasagna noodles in the pan, add a little more sauce.
Stop. Take the phone from the Firecracker, tell the dispatcher to disregard the 911 call. Give the Firecracker a sliced banana.
Pull the meat off a dead chicken. (Buy one fully cooked at the deli.) Pile half the meat on the noodles. Add more sauce, the rest of the meat and another layer of raw noodles.
Stop. Put the dogs outside before they throw up the banana the Firecracker fed them. Give the Firecracker the TV remote.
Spread two cups of ricotta on the noodles. Add a few handfuls of raw spinach, more sauce and another layer of noodles.
Stop. Take the remote from the Firecracker and try to cancel his pay-per-view selection of WrestleMania’s “Hell in a Cell.” Give him some Goldfish crackers and a piece of cheese.
Top the lasagna with two cups of shredded mozzarella and any remaining sauce, sprinkle with parmesan, cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for an hour.
Put the pots, pans and utensils in the sink to soak. Put the Firecracker in the tub to wash the bananas and cheese and Goldfish out of his hair.
When you finish, dinner will be ready. See, wasn’t that easy?
Cooking is a lot like parenting. You can read all the books you want, but the only way to learn is to stay in the kitchen, take the heat, try and fail, lick your wounds, and try, try again.
At least with cooking, if you don’t like the results, you can always order a pizza.

Comments

  1. Susan Hampton says:

    Hi Sharon,

    I made the white lasagna last night for a Christmas family supper. It was a huge hit. . .thanks so much for sharing the recipe. It is now on my ‘keep and repeat’ list, in fact, it’s next repeat performance is for a special meal with friends on December 27. A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to you and yours.
    Susan

  2. AlisonH says:

    So funny, and so true!

    One added ingredient, back when mine were little but thankfully totally not available for my almost-walking first grandson or anyone else’s these days: the high chair we had back in the ’80s, my older son figured out how to loosen the straps and stand up if my back was turned and he got that chair to collapse backwards in a heap on the floor with him in it. Twice, to show me that no I hadn’t fixed that and that he still thought this was fun. We decided after that that we liked to just hold the baby anyway–and then two people needed a bath after dinner!

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thank, Alison, I think I had that same high chair! How did our kids ever survive?? Best to you and yours!

  3. Vyvyan Davis says:

    Great to have your website! Love your column and comments on your growin’ up times and your grandchildren. Relate to both. Grew up in the best of times and love my grands ever so much. Thanks for writing the things I’m feeling. Best wishes!

  4. Grace Cannon says:

    I’m so happy to have a place to tell you how much I enjoy your column each week.You are the only one I really enjoy. Thanks for many smiles and a few tears.

  5. Cheryl Fick says:

    You are by far my favorite columnist. I relate to the things you write about sometimes cause of my grandson. . . under 1 year old by just a little. The early years are the best because you are the world to them but once they head off to pre-school or the likes, they encounter other children whose behavior’s then can have an effect on the child. And lets face it, school is definitely a large influence on our kids unless you can put them in private schools . . . but whose to say they are any better. Why, because you have to pay a lot of money to send your kids there? HMM I don’t get it. Sorry for the ramble. . . I have a tendency to do that alot lately. But isn’t great for a time, being the world to someone whose little face gets a huge blinding smile when he turns around and sees you again!!! Please keep writing!!! I love your columns.

    • Sharon Randall says:

      Thank you, Cheryl! You are welcome to ramble here anytime! Kiss that grandbaby’s toes for me, will you?
      Best to you and yours!

  6. James says:

    Good to see your site up and running again. Missed you.

    James
    El Paso, TX

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