I grew up without a recipe for marriage. Before I eloped I asked my mother how to turn over an egg without breaking the yolk. Frankly, I'm not sure she knew. The women in my family are known for cooking up reasons to go out to eat - but I digress. My mother said if John complained about a broken yolk, our marriage would be in trouble. Well, we've managed to live happily ever after - partly because John doesn't like fried eggs. Shortly after we were married, both my mother and my mother-in-law sent me a cookbook. To me they were mystery books - full of surprise endings. Thankfully, I had an understanding landlady, who told me when a recipe called for pieces of chicken, it meant wings, drumsticks, etc - not the matchstick pieces I was trying to cut from a raw breast. She also suggested I cook the potatoes before making potato salad. When I was learning to cook, I followed recipes like they were treasure maps. As the pages of my two cookbooks got stained and dog-eared, my measurements got less precise. Then I started taking shortcuts. I don't know if it's beginner's luck, but sometimes a dish never tastes as good as the first time I made it. Maybe that's because I still remember the sweet taste of success. I identify with Julia Childs' make-do, cooking style. If you don't have an ingredient, substitute. If you make a mistake, compensate. Well, I've made a lot of mistakes. If I couldn't make do, I didn't make it again. However, there's only been one meal that was so bad we fed it to the garbage disposal and went out to eat. Who knew you had to cook the eggplant shells before making stuffed eggplant? For many people eggplant is an acquired taste; but to acquire a taste for raw eggplant, you'd have to have a pastry gun pointed at you. John didn't need a gun pointed at him. Being a survivor, he voluntarily took cooking lessons. Unfortunately, John stresses out when he cooks - something about wanting what he makes to be perfect. If I'd stressed about cooking, we'd have starved or I would have been put in the kind of hospital where knives weren't allowed. Worse, my mother-in-law could have moved in. I stopped stressing about cooking as soon as I learned there are other ways to a husband's heart.

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