For a week, I lay in bed at night and dreamed about preparing my first dish for my daddy. Mother was a gourmet cook: people begged to be invited to parties where she served her Greek-style leg of lamb, the mouthwatering Onion Cheese Pie that she created, Cherries Jubilee. When she gave me Betty Crocker’s Cookbook for Boys and Girls for Christmas, I was delighted. At the tender age of eight, I was being invited to become a princess in this realm that my mother ruled as queen.
She said that the following Friday night, I would be allowed to prepare a dish from the book. A salad, perhaps, or a vegetable. I decided that I would prepare a salad that would please my daddy. (You might have to be a southern girl to understand this.) A vegetable would be lost on the plate beside the starch, bread, and entree. A salad would be a first course that would be the center of attention. And it was.
Mother announced to Daddy that I was going to prepare the salad course for him on Friday night. My brother, who was three years older, would be at a party that evening, so this would be a special night for me. Daddy asked me what I was going to prepare. I said, “It’s a surprise.” And it was.
The recipe was Candle Salad. I set the table beautifully and hid the salads in the refrigerator. When Daddy and Mother were seated and grace was said, I went to the refrigerator and with great dignity carried Daddy’s salad to the table and set it before him. Then I brought Mother's. Then mine.
By the time I arrived at the table with my salad, tears were running down Daddy’s cheeks. He was biting his lower lip. He began to shake. Then he started to roar with laughter. “Daddy! Stop that!” hissed Mother. But he couldn’t.
I was devastated. My daddy was laughing at my salad. “What did I do wrong?” I cried, jumping up from my seat wanting to correct my mistake.
“Nothing!” he shouted, trying to control himself. “Absolutely nothing! It’s the best damn salad I’ve ever had in my whole damn life!” he cried.
“Then why are you laughing at it?” I whimpered.
“Honey, I’m not laughing at the salad,” he said trying to regain control of himself. Then he snorted and laughed harder. In spite of herself, Mother started laughing, too. I was not laughing.
Finally he got out, “I’m laughing because I’m so pleased that my little girl is learning how to cook from her mother!”
Affronted, I said, “Mother didn’t teach me how to make this. I learned it on my own from Betty Crocker.”
I did not figure out until years later what was so funny.
This is the recipe from the book. You might want to try it yourself. Or not.