The easiest path to understanding how I became a chef is to start at the beginning: As an eight year-old, I finally found the nerve to ask my Mother if she would cook my eggs a little longer (she liked sunny-side up). Her reaction surprised me. “If you don’t like the way I cook your eggs, you can darn well do for yourself.”
Well, it didn’t take long to make friends with Mom’s big gas stove. Whoopee, I was now a cook. But my initial glee was short-lived. On my first attempt at feeding our family, I got distracted and allowed a pot of Beenie-weenies to boil over; what a mess, especially cleaning all the little gas jets.
Undeterred, I tackled another meal. This time it was nothing more complicated than heating a can of beef stew. Surely I could manage that without mishap. I opened the can and tasted it, but the stew didn’t have much flavor. So, I did what Mom did; I raided her extensive spice cabinet. With dozens of different bottles at my disposal this was destined to be a most memorable dinner.
Instead of a mere sprinkling of salt and pepper, I added a healthy pinch of everything in the cupboard to the pot. When it began to heat, the stench throughout the house was unbearable. But this time, no amount of cleaning would save me and I was forced to admit my error. Mom forgave me and I’ve maintained an interest in the art of cooking throughout my lifetime.
Among my more memorable culinary achievements, I would have to include nearly ten years as the chef for two separate, prestigious retirement communities. While serving the elderly initially caused me concerns about being around a two or three-hundred rickety old folk, those years turned out to be golden–for all concerned. During that time I was privileged to serve as Treasurer and Events Chairperson for our local chef’s association.
Being awarded a Gold Medal for my entry into a chef’s competition was another highlight. The winning recipe for SMOKED SALMON CHOWDER will appear on my blog in the winter months. My mobile catering kitchen won a blue ribbon at a large county fair for the best commercial food. And my restaurant (Cozy Cafe) was critically-acclaimed by The Bellingham Herald for the best food in Whatcom County. While the rave review was wonderful, it was not the best compliment I ever got. Once, a 14 year-old boy ordered the dinner special. And when he was finished he came to me and said, “Mister, the food was so good I didn’t need ketchup.” With those accolades in hand, it was time to sell Cozy Cafe and retire.
After restoring a vintage 1985 Volkswagon Vanagon, my wife and I finally got the vacation we always wanted: a visit to all the national parks and petroglyph sites in the west. It was a wonderful trip, spanning over two months and nearly 7,000 miles. But when preparing for another jaunt the following year, she suffered a crippling stroke and remains an invalid to this day.
Dark clouds of life, one might say. Dark, indeed, but even considering the level of damage done to my high school sweetheart, a silver lining emerged. I had always wanted to be a writer; you know, one of those somewhat mysterious fellows sequestered in an upstairs room pounding out novels on a battered old typewriter. Becoming a caregiver forced me to remain home-bound, thus creating the opportunity to write. Armed with a computer I set out to write a book.
Because I had some knowledge of kitchens and cooking, I wrote a cookbook. But I didn’t want to assemble just another book of recipes. I wanted to create something that was easy, simple, different and useful. THE BURNTWATER COOK’S KITCHEN GUIDE was written for the overworked, the overwhelmed and the inept. Everyone falls into at least one of those categories.
After publishing the cookbook, I got the urge to write something funny. It didn’t take long to decide what topic would be best: Me! After all, I began cooking at the tender age of eight; surely stories like that would be funny. The final result was RAPSCALLION SUMMER, a collection of personal adventures and mischief from my youth. It, and my first cookbook were reviewed by the Military Writer’s Society of America and resulted in Silver Medals being awarded to both. Well, I can tell you, medals at any level are earned, not given. It was thrilling. Having been thus rewarded, I set out to write another book. But what should I write about and what interested me the most?
Science Fiction has always interested me and I’ve read novels written by all the great authors of the time. Okay, I decided to write a novel about space exploration and aliens. But it seemed it had all been done before, so what slant could I put on another aliens-meet-humans story?
I assumed communication between species would be the biggest stumbling block. So, I wrote a novel about the first meeting; an intervention when we humans were so far from home there was no way to call for help. As it turned out, THE CENTAURI INTERVENTION won another award: Honorable Mention.
Well, it seemed I actually could write something of worth; something folks liked to read. Maybe I should try another genre. The Wild West has always interested me, so why not write about an English boy and his desire to see the Wild West of America before it was gone forever. I wrote TRAIL COOK from the viewpoint of a cook, a subject I knew something about.
TRAIL COOK received good reviews but the story of Able Piddington was incomplete, even after filling the book with his adventures and struggles as he made his way to America. So, I wrote a sequel, THE TRAIL COOK CHRONICLES. Following that second book came the third book of the trilogy, THE PIDDINGTONS. Then a friend and fellow author suggested I create a story about the son of Able Piddington. So THE ADVENTURES OF GOPHER PIDDINGTON was written, published and won a Bronze Medal.
My first cookbook was completed and published in 2010. Since then I have written a total of eighteen books, including two children’s books, one of which (BUTTERFLY DUST) was awarded a Gold Medal. All my books are featured on this weblog. All are available through Barnes & Noble.com and Amazon in both print and ebook formats.
Writing has been both an escape and a reward since assuming the caregiving duties for my spouse of nearly fifty years. I invite my blog readers to enjoy the books I have written. Half of them have earned medals or other awards. All of them include a little bit of me, as well as many other characters I have met along the road of life.
Currently I am writing my nineteenth book and my fourth Science Fiction novel. This time the subject deals with how the world will change when we are attacked with a massive electromagnetic pulse from space. Just imagine what life would be like without electricity. THE IDES OF MAN weaves a story of survival in which the power never returns.
My next project will be a Historical Novel about the ancient Anasazis of the Four Corners area of the Southwest and what drove them to build and inhabit the many cliff dwellings. THE ANASAZI ENIGMA is slated for publication in 2016.
I’m playing with an outline for another Historical work of fiction about a peaceful family who tries to escape the horrors of the Civil War only to find the Appalachian Mountains offer no sanctuary. There is no deadline for ON WINDY KNOB, but some time late in 2016 it should be finished.
The eighteen wooden model airplanes were designed and created during the early days following my wife’s stroke. Each one represents an aviation milestone, changing aviation history forever. Every model comes fully assembled and wrapped in a protective styrofoam box. They are all hand-made (in America) from “rescued” woods. They are classified as semi-scale renditions of famous aircraft and are intended as showcase models.
On a more personal note, I enlisted in the United States Navy after high school in 1962. After schooling and specialty training I served aboard the submarine tender USS Sperry (AS-12), where I achieved the rank of E-5 (PM2). Serving my country taught respect, honor, duty and patriotism. When the opportunity arises, I stand with other veterans manning flag lines as a member of the Patriot Guard to honor our fallen veterans.
That, my friends, is some of what makes me, me. As for the remainder, look up the definition of Curmudgeon; I’ll be there.
Thanks for reading and following my blog. Please forward my URL blog address to all your friends, acquaintances and even your enemies–after all, everyone must eat. And, be sure to bookmark or add my blog to your favorites. I’ll do my best to fill it with interesting and useful culinary advice, tips, hints and easy recipes.