Chicken and Dumplings

Chicken andDumplings

by Dinah Lee

When I married at the tender age of 19, there were many things I didn't know, although I was loath to admit it, even to myself.

One of the biggest gaps in my experience was in the kitchen. Although I had dabbled occasionally in cakes or brownies, like most teenagers, I didn't know my way around a meal at all. Lack of knowledge or experience certainly didn't stop me from trying to cook. With youthful naivete, I determined to master the art.

The person who really suffered through those first experimental years turned out to be my poor husband. He ate beef roasts that turned gray in the pressure cooker we received for a wedding present, cornbread that turned back into crumbles when you touched it and biscuits so hard you could use them to build a stone walk. And I might add, that he did all of this without much complaining either.

Yes, loving me required a cast iron stomach and a great deal of patience. My biggest advantage where he was concerned though, was the fact that his mother was not a super cook, either. Thank God!

We started housekeeping in a duplex apartment, owned by a pleasant elderly couple. Our little love nest contained a living room, bedroom, bath and kitchen, with the entry through the kitchen. It was tiny by anyone's standards, with the exception of the kitchen, which was white and seemed quite roomy at the time.

We must have really believed that love would conquer all, because when we moved in, we realized that we had forgotten to allow for the purchase of a few essentials: things like a stove and a refrigerator. For the first few months, we used a borrowed cooler to ice down our perishables. We cooked in an electric skillet, placed on the dining table (a card table we borrowed from my mother-in-law).

On pay day, we checked the shopper's news and found a little refrigerator and the smallest gas stove you've ever seen. After scrubbing them down and moving them into place, the kitchen still seemed spacious to us.

Now that I had a proper kitchen to work in, I decided the time had come to make my favorite dish, chicken and dumplings, and I set out to find a recipe.

First of all, I did what every young bride does, I called Mother. When I asked her, she said she didn't even use a recipe. She recited the ingredients she used, but when I experimented with some chicken broth, the result was not anything I could recognize.

Realizing that I needed expert advice at this point, the next Saturday I rushed to the used book store and rummaged through the offerings until I found what I came for. It was a very old copy of a Betty Crocker Cookbook, and it contained the recipe I was seeking. On the drive home, I could envision serving that tender, succulent chicken and the delicate, fluffy dumplings, laden with a rich, creamy sauce. Yum.

Striking a big kitchen match, I lit my little four-burner stove, and popped Mr. Chicken into the pot along with the prescribed vegetables. An hour later, I triumphantly lifted the lid and viewed my stewed chicken with pride.

Now, for the dumplings. With the cookbook in front of me, I started to mix the dough for drop dumplings when the phone rang. Promising to return the call, I went back to the mixture. "What is self-rising flour?" I wondered to myself.

Then the doorbell rang. Single-mindedly, I dispatched the visitor quickly to get back to my dumplings. "How much baking powder did I add before the bell rang?" I thought. Carefully, with book in hand, I deboned the chicken and layered the meat on the bottom of the pot. Thinking that "bigger is better," I then carefully spooned the dumplings on top of the mixture using my biggest cooking spoon, and clamped on the lid.

Since the prescribed cooking time was twenty minutes, I went into the next room to return my phone call. It was so much fun to tell my friend about my culinary triumph. She seemed quite impressed with my accomplishment. Finally, I hung up the phone, a few minutes later than I had intended. (After all, how could dumplings tell time?) The house was beginning to fill up with the tantalizing scent coming from the kitchen as I walked toward the little stove, salivating with anticipation.

There, I found the biggest mess I had ever seen. The dumplings, big in the beginning, and bolstered with a double dose of baking powder, had risen to the size of softballs. Softballs that came to life while I watched them, pushing up the lid of the pot, rolling over and over, and sliding down the front of the little stove to the floor.

Stunned at first, I finally sprang into action, too late to save dinner. Feverishly, I worked to clean up the hot, slippery mess.

Feeling embarrassed, I never told my hubby why he ate hot dogs that night, but I'll guarantee you, I never, ever again left the kitchen while something was cooking.

I guess that I'll always remember that experience as the day that I discovered one of the prime precepts of the culinary arts and of life, itself: THE UNWATCHED POT BOILETH OVER!

Along the paths we tread in a lifetime, we accumulate a lot of "pots." Our "pots" are our responsibilities, and persistence in tending to them is not always easy.

For instance, we need to tend the marriage "pot." Without constant attention to a loving relationship, a couple could grow apart. Raising our children properly also requires a steady dose of loving attention and guidance. Our job will soon be someone else's job, if we neglect our duties at work. We learn from the Bible that we have even more "pots" to tend, and that it is our duty to tithe and to help our fellow man.

God never gives us more"pots" than we can handle. We must trust that He, in His wisdom, will help us to live up to our responsibilities. The main thing we should remember is that our responsibilities require our constant attention. Be steady and do not falter from his ways, for all we have to do, is to mind our "pots."

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