10 Things I Would Rather Do Than Write my Letter of Intent

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I am applying to a grad program. My application includes a letter of intent. Already I have loads of activities to help me avoid this task. For example today I have perused Facebook, Twitter and Instagram;  texted friends; written a blog post; made new chore charts for the kids; and swept the kitchen 5 times (still looks like it could use another go over).  Hold on.

Okay. That’s better.

Anyway, here’s my list of 10 things I’d rather do than write this essay: Continue reading

Origin Story

I’m applying to graduate school this week.  I earned my Master in Secondary Education back in 2o12.  I thought that would be it for me, but it seems like opportunity has begun knocking upon my door again.  I’ve decided to answer it–this time in the form of a Education Specialist degree (Ed.S.).

Part of an application to graduate school includes a letter of intent.  In this 2-3 page essay, I am supposed to give my life story.  Where did I come from?  What were my goals?  What do I hope to achieve?  Ayi, ayi, ayi!  I feel like the dumbest person on the Earth as I sit down to try to hash this out every day.

What is my origin story?  How did I become an educator?  I wasn’t bitten by a bug…or a spider (literally, anyway).  I did not endure a large parental tragedy that left my seeking revenge on the criminals of the city.  I also did not survive some sort of nuclear science experiment, but I do have an origin story.  We all do.  Here’s mine.

I grew up in small town Texas.  Compared to some of the other surrounding areas, I was in the big city, but truthfully, it was small town.  Every one knew every one.  My state of knowing others was compounded by the fact that my mother grew up there and my grandparents had lived in the community for many years.  We could not go to a restaurant or movie without seeing someone my parents or my grandparents knew.  We would run into people from church, from sports, from work, from school. It was neverending.  Sounds quaint, right?  Not to me.  Part of the problem with everyone knowing everyone is that everyone knows everyone…or at least thinks they do.

I went to several elementary schools when I was growing up.  We would move to a new neighborhood, and I would move to a new school.  Where most people would view this a fresh start, it wasn’t.  I always ended up at a school that either knew me or knew my parents.  For my brother this wasn’t so bad.  He was popular and likeable, but I was THAT girl.  I was sickly, overweight, and uncoordinated.  I suffered from severe allergies, asthma, and my undiagnosed heriditary angioedema (HAE).  I would miss a lot of school which put me on a lot of “teacher” lists.

“She’s smart.  She’s just lazy.”

“I don’t think your daughter should be in honors reading.  Yes, I understand she reads grade levels ahead, but she just misses too much class. Yes, I understand her TAAS scores are high and she’s in our GT program.”

“I’m not sure she should go to college.  I’m not sure she would make it.  Perhaps she should stay close to home.  Maybe try to get a job.”

Little did these teachers know just how sick I was.  Doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me.  I endured tests and unnecessary surgeries in an attempt to figure out what was going on. (Because of my rare condition, I wouldn’t find out what it was until my thirties).

The way teachers reacted to me in class didn’t help my social life. Given the fact that doctors would prescribe steroids to control my asthma or unexplained abdominal pain (that turned out to be HAE), I was puffy and larger than most students my age.  I was called “fatso” and “ugly.”  One of my most horrific memories was when I received my period early (5th grade), which meant I had to carry feminine products with me to school in my purse.  One day, this blonde popular student began ridiculing me in the cafeteria.  She stole my purse, looked inside to see if I had anything worth taking,  and pulled out my small supply of pads and tampons.  I was horrified.  She then ran around the cafeteria calling me out and teasing me for no longer being a girl.  Suddenly something that was supposed to be celebrated became my scarlet letter.  I never quite recovered.  I was in a small town and stuck with these people through high school.  I was always THAT girl.

I suppose my origin moment, my spider bite, came when I was a junior in high school.  I actually heard my high school counselor call me a loser in front of another student.  I was mortified.  If I had been more confident and wiser to what was expected of adults in that position, I would have reacted differently.  However, all I knew was shame, and after years of being called a “loser” by my classmates and apparently adults.  I actually finally believed it.  It led me to make decisions that I am not proud of but led me to understand the desperation of   teenagers later on.

Loser or not, I went to college anyway.

And I flourished.

I was challenged.  No one knew me, so it was a fresh start. A Brand Spanking New Beginning.  I became president of clubs.  I was an officer in other clubs.  I made very good grades…better than I ever made in high school (and I didn’t make bad grades in high school).  I cared about what I was doing.  I was still sickly, but the flexible schedule helped tremendously.  I had a group of incredible friends and extremely encouraging professors.  Encouraging.  Wow!  What a difference that made!

When I graduated, I went on to a successful career in sales.  (I know, the social outcast becomes marketer–crazy, right?)

After Madeleine was born, I decided that I would go back to school to become a teacher.  I had work to do and wrongs to make right. I vowed that if I was ever in a classroom that my one daily goal would be that EVERY student felt safe in my classroom.  EVERY student would feel valued, and EVERY student would feel encouraged.  No student would ever feel like a loser.  If they learned some skills along the way—great!  But if they felt valued, safe, and like they could do anything, then THAT would make the real difference, and it would allow them to learn more than they thought possible.

And that was it.  A high school counselor referred to me as a loser. I vowed that no student in my classroom would EVER feel that way from me.

I won’t write most of this in my letter of intent (or at least I’ll work to put it down more eloquently than I did here), but it’s true.  I became the teacher I am because someone did not value me.  It gave me the will, strength, and determination to value others.

 

Black-eyed Pea Picking

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I recently finished teaching Seamus Heaney’s poem “Blackberry Picking” to my AP English class.  It’s one of my favorite poems. It touches so strongly on some of my own childhood memories.   When I was five years old, we moved to Azle, Texas.  Azle was very different from the flat, empty north Texas environment where I had spent the beginning of my life.  Even though a child, I could still appreciate the aesthetic difference. It was greener.  It spread out with bushes and trees and life.   We lived in a small housing development of the just-budding suburb of Forth Worth.  In our small backyard, we had trees to climb, places to hide, and a natural sandbox to dig.  The dirt would turn red, and my brother and I dreamed up scenarios of digging to Hell to kill the devil and rid the world of evil for once and for all.  We spent a lot of time in the backyard, but occasionally my mother would take us to the woods behind our privacy fence.  It was on those trails where my brother learned to ride a bike, and we would pick wild blackberries.

This is my favorite memory of that time.  A blackberry cobbler is a sweet reminder of that innocence gone by.  If I could travel in time, I would certainly go back there. But memories are all that remain, not the physical pleasure of eating blackberries.  It can only be recalled not recaptured.

Picking fruits and vegetables seem a common theme in my most precious memories.  Maybe it’s because my family spent so much time in the kitchen when I was growing up.  We picked together, canned together, cooked together, ate together.  This is what I remember and hold on to.

Shelling black-eyed peas is one of the last quality moments where I got to be with my dad–before he got sick, before the cancer ate him away.   We had visited the farmer’s market just outside of town where we purchased two bushels of black-eyed peas.  We sat on the back porch.  All his grandchildren were with him, seated at his feet in a circle with their own portions of peas and small bowls.  We shelled peas, listened to classic country, and filled our own “milk cans, pea tins, and jam pots.”  He recounted for me much of my family history, what he had uncovered in his years of genealogical research.  For what I remember, despite the acute summer heat, it was perfect.

The next day we pulled out the pressure cooker and canned them.  I brought cases of jars back to Colorado to eat during the school year when snow would cover the ground and I would want a meal that tasted like home.  Even before we know how sick he was, I would ration out these jars.  They were special.  I  had to make them last until next year when we would gather on my parent’s porch and work on another bushel or two.

I had one jar left when he passed. “Each year I [hope] they’d keep, knew that they would not.”

Blackberry-Picking

BY SEAMUS HEANEY

for Philip Hobsbaum

Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.

 

 

In Case You Missed It…

This summer I decided that if I continue to encourage my students to let their writing be read, then I, too, should make that happen.

I’ve looked back at some of my most popular posts.  I thought I’d share them again along with a look at some blogs you may have missed.

Top 3 Blog Posts (Most Read) of 2015:

A Letter to My Daughter:  This post was written before Miss M’s first day of 3rd grade.  Second grade had been a disaster.  We were  both glad it was over.  Third grade is going great.  She’s made new friends and was identified as verbally gifted and talented.  She danced in her third Nutcracker this Christmas.  She’s looking forward to learning about Vikings this spring.

Jeopardy and the Dream and His Moment:  Both of these posts are dedicated to my husband.  While his Jeopardy! experience wasn’t exactly what we had envisioned, it’s a fond memory that we both laugh about often.

3 Overlooked Favorites:

These posts didn’t garner the readership of some of my others, but they are very important to me.

The Prayers I’ll Pray for My Son: This is the blog I wrote before Max’ first day of kindergarten and in a new school.  It certainly hasn’t been smooth sailing though given his challenges, I believe he’s doing well.  I’m sure I’ll blog about it soon.

Dipping My Feet in the River talks of our small staycation to Glenwood Springs.  I got to observe my children near the river.  I can still learn a lot from my brave daughter.

The Myth of Replacement is about my thoughts of what has been going on in my school.  I’m sad to see my principal go.  I know no one can truly make the difference that she made in our school, our students, and me.

The Year in Review & Goals

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2015 is over.  I’m mostly glad. It’s not that 2015 was terrible;  I’m just ready to move on.  There are a lot of changes already on the horizon for 2016, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this takes me.

As a family, we had some exciting moments.  I attended the Douglas County Apple Awards as my school’s representative.  We took our 2nd trip to Disneyland over Spring Break. My sister-in-law had her first baby. Jedidiah competed on Jeopardy!  Disney released Episode VII.  The Royals won the World Series.   We had a lot of excitement, but I’m ready for some changes.

People keep asking:  “What’s your resolution for 2016?”  I hate that word.  It’s become synonymous with  broken promises and unachieved dreams.  Instead of thinking in terms of resolutions, I’ve begun thinking in terms of goals instead of resolutions for 2016.

I’ve also learned for goals to really work, they have to be SMART goals.  I first learned this term in the business world, but after two years of teaching, I started seeing this infiltrate education as well.  SMART goals are goals that are SPECIFIC, MEASURABLE, ACHIEVABLE, REALISTIC, and TIME-BOUND.  Sounds boring, right? But I’ve based my SMART goals on Neil Gaiman’s often-shared New Year’s wish from 2001:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

– See more at: http://journal.neilgaiman.com/2007/12/as-i-was-saying.html#sthash.KON3f9M6.dpuf.

If you don’t read his New Year’s wishes, you should.

So I’ve devised my goals into these categories:

  1. Magic and Dreams: It is a dream of mine to lose weight.  Sounds silly or predictable…but I haven’t lost all the weight I gained with Max five years ago!  I often start diets, but peter out once my spring semester takes over my life.  I have lost a few pounds here or there, but I find that I haven’t really set a goal around this.  So here it is:  I will lose 25 pounds by Memorial Day.  I will track this through the Weight Watchers app each week.  I will track my food daily.   I know I will feel better and be happier.
  2. Good madness:  I’ve taught the same material in my freshman class for the past few years. Like other teachers, I can fall into a rut of doing the same activities especially if time is becoming my enemy. This year, I will take one risk in the classroom–try something new–once per month.  I will track this through my blog as well as my Bloomboard app.
  3. Books:  Reading goals.  My husband sets them.  My friends set them.  I never had.  It’s all I do, really.  Read.  However, I am usually reading for school, not for myself.  This year, I will read 6 personal selections.  These are books I choose for myself.  I will track this through my blog.
  4. Kisses:  This might be TMI, but I do neglect to spend time with my husband especially during the school year.  This year, one night/ week, I will not plan, grade, or answer emails after I leave school.  Instead, I will come home, eat dinner,  put the children to bed, and spend one-on-one time with my husband. I will track this in my planning calendar.
  5. Art:  I have wanted to make something of this blog, and although what that “something” is has not fully formed in my mind, I have neglected to follow through with posting as often as I would like.  For me, writing a blog takes inspiration and time.  Even with those, my posts don’t always take the shape I wish they would.  However, I am done with these excuses.  I will post at least once per week whether it is long, deep, and inspired or just a  blurb about the day.  I will track this through my WordPress dashboard and the blogging calendar I bought months ago, but never opened.

So here’s to a New Year.  To magic, dreams, and good madness.  To books, kisses, and art.  How will you live out this New Year’s wish?

Christmas Day without a Turkey

IMG_0898A month ago, we had turkey, dressing, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, and other traditional holiday foods.  I love those foods, but a month later, I’m not ready to eat them again.   A few years ago, we started a new tradition–one that includes beef, wine, and hearty vegetables.  Instead of turkey and dressing, etc., we have Boeuf Bourguignon.

Usually my holidays go off without a hitch. Not this year.  As I began to prepare our holiday feast, I realized no one had ever bought the meat.  There was yelling, tears, frustration, but finally, SAFEWAY came to the rescue.

I like this recipe on Christmas Day because it takes very little time away from my family.  I’m not spending hours in the kitchen basting a previously feathered beast.   I get to enjoy the excitement my children have as they run down the stairs to see what Santa brought them.

The recipe is simple enough.  I can throw everything in a pot in about 20  minutes and let the rest slow cook away….And the smell is amazing.

I have adapted my recipe from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris with Julia Child’s famous recipe.  Truthfully, I’ve made this recipe so many times that I don’t really follow a recipe anymore.  I’ve found techniques I like and techniques I don’t like.  Now I get to  “eyeball” it.

I use my kitchen scissors to cut bacon into one-inch strips (called lardons).   I cook them on medium heat in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in my Le Creuset enameled cast-iron Dutch oven.  If you don’t have one of these, you should invest in one.  I bought a whole set of Le Creuset cookware with a commission check ten years ago, and I use it more than any other cookware in my kitchen.  It is completely worth the investment.  It also looks beautiful in the kitchen, which is an added bonus.

After about 10 minutes, I remove them with a slotted spoon and set aside.  I keep my scissors close to me to ward off unwanted bacon thieves.

While I sautéed the bacon, I seasoned my cubed chuck roast with salt and pepper and then dredged the meat in flour.   Once I removed the bacon, I added the meat in small batches, searing on all sides.  I do not cook the meat through but remove it once it’s been browned.

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To the remaining fat in the pan, I add sliced yellow onions.  Then when the  onions are translucent I add the sliced carrots.   Once the onions begin to brown,  I add minced garlic and cook a minute or two more, make sure not to burn the garlic.  Then add the bacon and meat back to the pan.

At this point, you can become showy.  You can flambé your stew with brandy or Cognac.  We were out of both Christmas morning, so I skipped this step all together.  I didn’t notice a tremendous difference.  It’s a great trick, however, if you want to impress your in-laws. (If you choose to do so, add about 1/2 cup of brandy, light it with a match, and step back until the alcohol dissipates.)

I then add a whole bottle of dry wine.  We like Cabernet but a good Pinot Noir works as well.  I like Cabernet because it has a nice peppery flavor.   I add enough water to the pan to completely cover the meat and vegetables. You can add beef stock, but I have come to love Better the Bouillon beef paste.  I add 2 tablespoons of it to the pot with 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  I add more salt, pepper, and dried thyme.  Once the stew comes to a low boil, I cover it and  put it in a 250 degree oven for about 2 hours.  I check it after 90 minutes to see if the meat is fork tender.  If it’s not, I leave it in for another 30 minutes or so.

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When it’s finished, I put it back on the stove.  I add frozen pearl onions and some mushrooms that I sautéed in butter beforehand.  I cook it another 15 minutes until it thickens.

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I realize there should be a finished photo here, but my camera ran out of batteries.  Still, the pot looks pretty yummy. With a lovely salad and French country bread, it really is a warm winter meal.  I know that Christmas has come and gone, but it would be a perfect supper for New Year’s Eve or Day.

 

 

His Moment

Today’s the day.  I can’t say what for.  Not yet. I will soon; I promise.

It’s not everyday that you get to see the one you love the most make one of his dreams come true. Not a dream like skydiving or climbing a fourteener, but an almost impossible one. At least one you thought to be impossible.  Today I do.

I’m certain that I am almost as nervous as he is.  This morning, we, my husband and I, took the cold elevator downstairs and ate an expensive yet passable breakfast.  He ate more than he had in the last two weeks.  I hope it doesn’t make him sick.

For the past month, my husband has changed in some ways because of today.  He changed his eating habits, started exercising. and had his suit professionally dry-cleaned.   He let me take him shopping, and he even bought new clothes.  This morning, he watched a plethora of YouTube videos on how to tie a proper Windsor knot.  I watched him tie–untie–repeat–until he was finally satisfied with his work.  He spent the longest time grooming his beard.  He trimmed, shaved, and tweased until not a hair was out-of-place.  This is all so unusual.  For the first time in our relationship,  I was dressed and ready before he was.

Now he’s left the hotel on a shuttle with the others.  The next time I see him he’ll be under hot blinding lights.  Even though we won’t be able to see each other, my anxious feet will mirror his.  I’ll hold my breath with each answer.  My palms will equally be sweaty. And while he’s living his dream, I’ll be living mine too.

A Taste of Texas: Chicken Enchiladas

I go through serious Mexican food withdrawal.  We’ve lived in Colorado for three years now, and I still haven’t found satisfactory Mexican food.  I have to make it.  That’s why I started making my own tortillas.  I can’t find a single tortilla factory anywhere near our location.  Sometimes I just miss warm tortillas and butter.

Since moving here, I’ve become pretty good at creating the kinds of flavors I miss from Texas.  One of the recipes I’ve perfected over the years as a Texan is chicken enchiladas.  No one in Colorado makes good chicken enchiladas.  Sorry, y’all.  It’s true.

For a working mom, it’s an easy weeknight recipe.

Chicken Enchiladas

Ingredients:
  • 1 Tablespoon oil
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • Left-over cooked chicken, shredded
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can diced green chiles
  • 1 8 oz. container of sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese
  • 8-10 soft taco size flour tortillas
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and cook until translucent.  Add shredded chicken.  Saute until warm.  Remove onion and chicken from skillet and set aside.  Add butter to the skillet and melt.  Whisk in flour and cook for about a minute or two.  Slowly add chicken stock while stirring continuously.  If the mixture looks too thick, add more stock.  Add the can of green chiles and sour cream.  Continue to stir until smooth.  Add cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.

Spread the sauce over a square casserole dish.  Take a warm flour tortilla, spoon chicken-onion mixture, and cheese in the center.  Roll the tortilla and place in the square baking dish.  Continue process until dish is full.  Cover the dish with the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle more grated cheese on top.  Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until bubbling.  Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

The Prayers I’ll Pray for My Son

165Tomorrow is the day my baby, the last one, starts kindergarten.  I think I’ve been able to hold it together for the most part.  Well, until his Meet and Greet this morning anyway.

Jedidiah  made the comment this morning that with Madeleine, we knew she was ready.  She was reading and writing.  We couldn’t keep a book out of her hands.  Her vocabulary at five years old was enormous.  She read at a 4th grade level. It made sense.  This kid needed to be in school soon because we weren’t going to be able to keep up with her.  But with Max, we still think of him as little. Our baby. How can he possibly be ready for big kid school?

My trepidation has only a little to do with the fact that Max is the baby of the family, he also has a speech disorder.  When Max was three, he was diagnosed with Childhood Apraxia of Speech.  He wasn’t supposed to talk.  “Start learning sign language,” the speech therapist told me.  I was devastated.  Yet this amazing little boy overcame all the odds, and 1 1/2 ago he began speaking. Since then, his progress has been “off the charts”, and although he can be difficult to understand, we cannot get him to stop talking.  So every day I’ll pray he keeps talking.

He is resilient.  I know this.  I have watched this for the last few years.  Yet despite his progress I worry.  I worry reading will be hard.  I worry writing will be hard.  I worry that making friends will be hard.  I worry success will come in small bursts after long periods of failure.  So every day I’ll pray for the small successes that keep him going.

Max is lucky.  His teacher is a good friend of mine.  Like me, she loves working with students on IEPs.  She’ll follow his accommodations, support him when he needs it, and find creative ways of helping him access the curriculum when it becomes difficult.  She’s a wonderful teacher, and if you knew the circumstances, it’s nothing short of a miracle that she is his teacher.  But I also know this won’t always be the case.  I hear teachers complain about following IEPs.  “I don’t have time to get this kid notes.  What is he going to do in college?  He needs to learn how on his own.”  My heart sinks when I hear statements like these.  I know it’s hard to help every student, but I also know what that support means to a student and that student’s parent.  So every year I’ll pray he wins the teacher “lottery.”

I worry that making friends will be difficult for him because of his speech.  I worry that others won’t listen because they don’t want to put forth effort to understand.  I worry that he will be called “baby” or “stupid” because it takes him longer to grasp concepts or speak his mind. I worry he’ll be left out because he’s different, and kids can be cruel.  So every day I’ll pray he makes a friend that will stand by him and stick up for him.  I’ll pray that someone will understand him.

So, yeah, letting my baby go to school is scary, but I can’t hold on.  I have to let 20150817_112303him go, and I’ll hope and pray that each day will create a series of successes that build his confidence and create a young man of character because that’s what’s important. That’s what I want for my little man.  My Max.  “The Greatest.”

Sara Groves, Prayers for This Child

My mother, Helen, and Me

Don't you love her hip glasses? I do!

Don’t you love her hip glasses? I do!

My mom cooked a lot when I was young. She got to be a SAHM for a spell, and she would prepare gourmet meals. She made bunuelos (light cinnamon and sugar-coated pasteries). She made Baked Alaska and Cherries Jubilee. I barely remember this, but there are flickers of recollection when I eat certain foods. She returned to the work force when my brother and I started elementary school. She still cooked, but it was meatoaf, hamburger stroganoff or Hungarian goulash–your standard working mom family dinner.  We also ate A LOT of left overs.  (I’m not a fan.  You can read about that here.)

When I began cooking, my mother was an encyclopedia of gourmet knowledge. “Where did you learn this?” I would ask as she would explain to me how to prepare Bananas Foster. My Nanna definitely didn’t cook this way. One day, she showed me.

My mother only had three cookbooks, a dim comparison to my 75+ books of recipe collections, but she knew so much about specialty food–especially for a Texas housewife. During my studies in college, she showed me that one of these volumes was responsible for her vast entertaining knowledge–The Helen Corbitt Cookbook.

Before Julia Child populated the screens of televisions and Martha Stewart planned her first soiree, Helen Coribitt, a New Jersey chef, taught Texas housewives how to cook and Texans how to eat. What ?!? You haven’t heard of her? That’s not a huge surprise.  Most people outside of the state of Texas haven’t heard of her, but the inventor of “Texas Caviar” and talented purveyor of poppyseed dressing brought elegance and beauty to the state which prided itself on barbecue, burritos, and chicken-fried steak.  In the 1950s and 1960s, she changed the way Texans ate, and we are better for it.  She would definitely be a household name if Food Network existed in the 1950s.  Her name has mostly disappeared from the world of food.  Her cookbooks are out of print, but she’s a chef worth knowing.

When I got married, I took my mother’s Helen Corbitt cookbook with me.Like my mother before me, I have learned several cooking lessons from the food-stained pages of her book. No holiday is complete with out the Chess Pie recipe.  (I swear it is the reason Jedidiah married me.)