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No Talking

(by Judith Viorst)

My mother was not a serious cook. She could get the lamb chops, the canned peas, and some starch onto a table in just the time it takes to overcook the chops. Her view of dining, though never explicitly stated, seemed to be: Let's get this over with. Which meant that she cooked fast, she served fast, and we ate so fast that the occasional guest might find his dinner plate cleared before he had finished his dinner because he had made the fatal mistake of making conversation while the rest of us were wolfing down our food.

Growing up, I never learned to cook anything, never even knew—and I'm not kidding—how to tell if the water was boiling. When I got married, my mother asked her girlfriend Yetta to teach me how to make her famous chicken cacciatore, and that was it for my culinary heritage. I eventually learned to enjoy cooking and became quite good at it. But though I adored my mother and received many valuable life lessons from her, I can't say she gave me anything in the cooking/eating/food department, except a gorgeous set of china and Yetta's recipe. Oh, and the capacity to keep up my end of a dinner-party conversation while also being the first at any table to finish the meal.