Learning To Cook In Three Easy (?) Lessons by
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Prompted By Learning To Cook

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Learning to cook was a three time process for me.  The first time when I was seven and  got a basic junior cookbook from my cousin.  The second time was when I was in Boy Scouts as an eleven year old.  Finally, when I started college, some roommates added to my cooking adventures.

Learning to cook with lessons from my mother, a book from my cousin, the Boy Scouts and a some college roommates

At seven years old, I had come home from the hospital and was told to take the month of November as rest and recuperation at home. A cousin of mine, Sally from Chicago sent me a beginner’s cookbook.  Simple recipes, but I got to mix up things, put them in the oven and or heat them over the stove, and see simple ingredients turn into tasty food, or at least mom and I thought it was tasty.  Of course Mom was there to make sure I did not make a significant or dangerous mistake.  My pride was the tuna casserole I made for dinner. Unfortunately, my brother John hated it and made it known that he did not want to eat it. I think he ate a little of it, but did not finish it.  While I made it a few more times, it was not the main dish.

At eleven years of age, I was now an eager Boy Scout.  I had previously been a Cub Scout and looked forward to the camp outs with the scouts.  I had just joined a new troop since we moved from Los Angeles to Santa Maria California.  It was a trough group of kids, and one had to be self sufficient. For example, minor disputes between boys were settled by having a boxing match. Today, I cannot believe that would be tolerated. While I was okay at boxing, camp out cooking was not my forte. My first camp out with the group was a quick overnight affair to Refugio Beach in central coastal Santa Barbara county.  Since it was a quick trip, every boy was to bring his own food and cooked it himself. It was a disaster for me.  Semi-raw eggs was one of the meals that I had there. It included burnt toast. Returning home, I told Mom that I needed to improve my cooking skills.  While nothing formal was done, she provided a steady hand and advice to me for basic cooking skills.

Shortly after the disastrous camp out at Refugio Beach, a new Boy Scout troop was formed in my neighborhood, and mom no longer had to take me 5 miles to the old troop.  This new troop did things right.  For each camp out, every patrol group (6 to 8 boys) planned a joint menu. A cook and work schedule for the scouts that would start the cooking fire, who would cook of each meal and the scouts that would clean up the meal was planned. Then it was off to the market, purchase the food and distribute it amount ourselves. The only problem we ran into was the clean-up crew for the meal always procrastinated in cleaning up the mess. In some ways, this was not surprising. No one likes to clean-up. The pots were made of aluminum and food stuck to them and the bottom of the pot bottom’s were black from the fire smoke. However, I certainly enjoyed this system compared to the method used by my first troop.

Finally, in college, I learned a little more cooking. A close friend of my roommate was from the Hispanic section of Los Angeles. Together, they taught me some of their cooking and dishes.

Today, I do cook more since I am single again. Due to Covid, I quit eating in restaurants. However, I am frequently cooking for one person, so I keep it simple. However, I do thank and think about my mother, my cousin and college roommates.


Profile photo of Joe Lowry Joe Lowry
I was a child that moved so often, (8 elementary/middle schools) and finally went to to high school in Arroyo Grande California. I ended up at San Jose State University graduating in Chemistry, minor in Biology. Got married, and had two sons. Unfortunately, my wife passed 35 years later. I worked initially in the pharmaceutical industry. After being down-sized, I ended up in the aerospace field, working on satellites. I still live in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Tags: Cooking, Boy Scouts, Mother, Cousin, Roommate
Characterizations: funny, right on!, well written


  1. Suzy says:

    Nice story, Joe, about your three lessons in cooking. I love that your cousin Sally sent you a cookbook when you were seven and you made some recipes from that. Your Boy Scout experience was mixed, and the second troop was a big improvement over the first. Finally, learning new recipes from your college roommate and his friend was a great addition to your repertoire, I’m sure. I’m guessing that during your marriage, your wife did most of the cooking for the family.

  2. Thanx Joe for sharing your learning-to-cook journey and crediting those who helped – especially your mom!

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