A few weeks ago my sister sent me something interesting. It was something she’d found in our mother’s cookbook, used as a bookmark. It was a recipe from a home economics class assignment I had done in high school, and she thought I’d like to have it.

It was really strange, seeing the old recipe, written in my high school hand. I looked at it a long time, recalling the class, the room, our instructor Ms. Walters, and the other kitchen lab members listed on the sheet. Home Ec was always sort of a joke to me. I was never really interested in cooking, and have never felt that comfortable making my way around a kitchen.

I don’t remember my mom ever asking if I wanted to help cook dinner. Nor do I have any memory of her ever baking cookies or anything else for that matter, so I have a feeling she might have had the same disdain that I did for the skill.

I do remember helping make food for my father’s tavern, though. There was a secret family recipe for making hamburgers (although I didn’t know it was a secret then), and every once in a while she’d pull out her beautiful crock mixing bowl, and we would gather all the necessary ingredients on the kitchen table.

I found it enthralling to watch, as she didn’t measure a thing, just dumped it all in. Breadcrumbs, French dressing, Worcestershire sauce, some eggs, probably a few other things ... and eventually the hamburger. Then she would mash it all together until you couldn’t tell one ingredient from the other.

Maybe that’s where I learned the “dump and cook” method I use today. My job was the fun part. Using an ice cream scoop, I would drop scoops of the mixture onto a machine that held dozens of little squares of waxed paper. I would pull the handle down and press, and open it up again. Voilà! A hamburger.

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