Post image for POTATO CHOWDER

by Debra on October 1, 2012

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Musical pairing – I Won’t Give Up by Jason Mraz

For as long as I can remember, I dreamed of being a singer – on Broadway or as a solo artist, ala Barbra Streisand, my hero at the time. I was singing at 18 months old and had entered my first talent contest at 5 and by High School I ranked 2nd in my State’s Solo and Ensemble competition.

My parents always supported and encouraged my singing but they also insisted I take other courses that would provide the skills to support myself until I was ‘discovered.’ My mother also said I needed marketable skills in the event a husband couldn’t work due to illness or died – then I’d be able to contribute to the family if needed – and she wanted her children to be independent. Secretarial classes were added to algebra, choir, orchestra and home-economics.

Performing was what I thought I was destined to do – all I wanted to do was sing. I entered every competition, volunteered for every solo opportunity available and sang in small groups, quartets, duets, musicals – I just wanted to sing. I guess you could say I was the Glee equivalent of Rachel Berry in my day.

At 16, the same year I placed 2nd in State competition, my choir director announced that I’d better figure out what else I was going to do with my life because I wasn’t going to make it as a singer – I didn’t sight read well and if I was to be a real singer, sight reading was a must. And he wouldn’t promote me to the top choir group, instead relegating me to the lower, ‘all girls’ choir. Less than a year later I was pregnant, then married . . . then a high-school drop-out. Those words were a defining moment and one that completely changed the trajectory of my life.

By the time I was 19, I had two children under the age of 2 and divorced. Any dreams of being a singer were now gone; suddenly, my mother’s words of ‘being able to contribute to the family’ had new meaning. Mom hadn’t mentioned ‘divorce’ but now I was supporting myself and my children with my ‘back up’ skills.

I spent a few years living on a welfare check of less than $300 a month while taking business classes at the local Community College; and I learned how to feed a family of three on $75 a month in food stamps. I was grateful for that home-economics class and for those times I cooked in my mother’s kitchen. We couldn’t eat fast-food as they didn’t take food stamps – eating out was when someone else was paying and for special occasions only – and back-in-the-day, it was cheaper to grow a garden, preserve what we grew and cook from scratch.

Casseroles to stretch the meat, vegetarian chilis, pasta, salads and big pots of soup – these are the dishes I fed my children for many years; I always lived near my parents or family and when our pantry got lean towards the end of the month, we’d be invited over for dinner and sent home with leftovers. I always enjoyed being in the kitchen – creating something delicious with a few simple ingredients.

There’s a bit more money now and I have this wonderful Professor who likes being in the kitchen as much as I do. We cook together almost every night – it might be something fancy or it might be something simple like a hearty casserole, scrambled eggs and toast . . . or a nice big pot of chowder.

And one more thing – The Professor won the Home-Ec Award when he was in Junior-High – yes, I did hit the jackpot.