When we were married in 1958 Clara knew nothing about cooking. Since I knew a lot about eating she made it her mission to learn all about preparing food fit for a king. I knew she must have thought of me as a king because she was always presenting me with burnt offerings. My, how things have changed over the years. I no longer receive burnt offerings from her as she has become a great cook.
One of her passions is sharing her culinary delights with other people. Our car floorboard and seats are stained from juices of the many casseroles and other dishes that she has taken to people. Our cat loves to smell around on our car as she discovers new food aromas. All that being said, she has encountered a number of “calamities” along the way concerning her food.
In the summer of 1958, her parents drove to Beaumont to visit us in our very first apartment, a small roach-infested house on North Street. Clara purchased a nice looking watermelon at Weingarten’s for us to enjoy. Late in the afternoon I put the melon on the counter and stuck the large knife into the end. The melon immediately burst and spewed its contents on us. The melon was almost rotten. Clara was upset because this was her first opportunity to entertain her parents as a married woman.
Several years later she decided to prepare a turkey for Thanksgiving. We were having a number of family members to enjoy the meal with us. After cooking the turkey for several hours and putting dressing all around it, someone asked her about the packet of goodies stuffed inside the turkey which are to be removed prior to baking. Clara responded, “What packet?” In spite of the fact that the packet had not been removed, it was still delicious.
Back in the days when one could take most anything on an airplane with you, she decided that she should take a yellow water melon to North Carolina. She put the melon in a large tote bag and took it on the plane. Upon arrival, the melon cracked open and made a mess in the bag.
In a similar vein, she decided to take some fresh vegetables to our daughter in Wyoming since these items are rather rare there. So she loaded up a large bag with fresh okra, ripe tomatoes, and a cantaloupe and carried the bag on the plane. After landing in St. Lake City, our son-in-law commented that he smelled an odor coming from the tote bag. Upon examination, he discovered that the cantaloupe had exploded at some point in the flight.
Her most memorable calamity happened about ten years ago. A couple that we had known for many years moved up from Houston upon retirement. They had been here only a short time when the husband died of a heart attack. Clara went into action in the kitchen. She prepared much food to take to the family, including a large white cake. It was placed on a cake pan which had a metal protective cover. Several friends accompanied us as we made our way to the home.
Upon arrival the grieving widow met us at the door. Clara handed her the freshly baked cake in its metal cover. When the lady took the top off the cake pan, the cake had disappeared. There were traces of it left on the bottom pan, so we knew that it had been in there. Startled, everyone looked at each other silently wondering who had removed the cake and why. Abashed, Clara asked for the cake pans back so she could investigate. She found the cake stuck inside the top. In spite of the sad occasion, we all got a good laugh out of that one.
Years ago there was a gentleman who had a vegetable stand on Hwy 147 north of town. She referred to him as “the man who sells watermelons and peas beside the road”. We still get a kick out of that one to this day.
“CLARA’S CULINARY CALAMITIES”
BY: NEAL MURPHY
P.O. BOX 511
107 HEMLOCK STREET
SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972