Cooking with Betsy: Making EVERYTHING good.

A special friend is in agony today over the preeminent passing of her beloved mama. After witnessing the same with my own precious mom, the only wisdom I can conjure up is to hold onto the good memories and let the bad karma go. Instead of regret, just BE. We can’t change the past. No one has the answers.

One of the wisest things Betsy ever told me was: “Make everything that happens to you – GOOD for you.” Actually, if I give credit where credit is due, that was Betsy’s grandmother, Isabel, who always said that to Betsy, who then passed it down to me. My children are now the keepers of the quote.

Make everything that happens to you – GOOD for you. It’s a positive nod to whatever life hands you. Betsy never let life get her down, even after the death of her beloved Ted after 50 years of marriage. I know she had many dark days/moments, but she persevered, and Betsy created a new life for one, instead of two.

Make everything that happens to you – GOOD for you. Her quote is appropriate here, on this blog, as everything we are cooking is good for us. Betsy did the same thing. Up until the last couple years of her life, Betsy was a healthy, scratch cook. She made her own bread every week, boned her own chicken, made every salad dressing, sauce and chutney, and canned her own pickles and jam in the summer. What I would give for a taste of her peach jam that tasted like young summer love. There were some flops; years later, we all laughed about “rock bread,” when Betsy made a dozen loaves of bread from a failed starter, and it emerged from the oven as solid as cement. We’d break into a chorus of Paul Simon’s Love Me Like a Rock every time it appeared on our plates. (We were expected to EAT it, because nothing was ever wasted, of course!)

Betsy was known for her culinary skills amongst all her friends and colleagues. Back in the 50’s and 60’s, fancy dinner parties were all the rage. Betsy kept those parties flowing well into the 80’s. I have fond memories as a small child, crouching on the landing of the front staircase and peeking through the spindles at the men in their sport coats and ties and women in their party dresses and furs, arriving through the front door for another one of Betsy’s legendary dinner parties. The martinis and Manhattans flowed from the front hall dry bar, and the smell of Pall Malls and Viceroys drifted up the stairwell. The appetizers were on trend and predictable: homemade cheese balls rolled in crushed pecans, Pepperidge Farm White bread: basted in butter, rolled around asparagus, sliced and baked, and little saucers of salted nuts. Betsy’s culinary prowess shined in the main course. The smells were intoxicating, and it was nothing that we children were ever served at the 5pm “children’s supper” in the kitchen. This was an adult dinner, and just the knowledge that it was something inaccessible made it even more enticing. Once everyone was served and seated in the dining room, I would tiptoe cautiously down the back stairway into the kitchen, take a tiny sip of an abandoned cocktail left on the counter, fill an appetizer plate, and then skedaddle back upstairs before I was caught.

Make everything that happens to you – GOOD for you.

  • Physically.
  • Emotionally.
  • Spiritually.
  • And, in the kitchen.


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