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Boil-in-Bag Mom

(by Stella Osorojos Eisenstein)

My mother was a boil-in-bag cook. She could fry a steak. She knew how to scramble an egg. She would plug in an electric griddle on the weekends and turn out a pile of relatively fluffy pancakes (sometimes even with blueberries in them). Otherwise, it was frozen food items marinated in a hot plastic leach.

I never knew what "fresh" tasted like until I was invited to my best friend’s dinner table. Her mother had a garden, and she served something that looked like chunky ketchup. The zing of vine-ripened tomatoes and unskinned squash was almost too much of a shock for my neglected taste buds. I cringed and, panting, asked, “What is this?!” My friend said, “Ratatouille,” and I felt the poles in my body realign themselves.

A short while later, my mother asked if I would like to take cooking lessons, and I jumped at the chance. She had neither the time nor the inc