I met my wife, Cora, when we were in seventh grade, but when we got married on Thanksgiving in 1950, we had never discussed the domestic side of married life. In other words, she didn’t know if I was picking up my clothes or doing the dishes. I didn’t know if she cooked or knew how to wash and iron.
We had both lived full lives. She worked at Valley Bank and supported her elderly parents. I went to college, worked and helped on the family farm. The appointments were at the cinema or sometimes at the restaurant. The subject of housework never came up when we were together.
At the end of August 1950, I left Arizona to attend the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. I left my car with Cora because her family didn’t have one and I wouldn’t need it to go to school. We wrote to each other every day or every other day, because neither of us had a telephone.
I got home the day before Thanksgiving, and we were married by Coolidge Justice of the Peace the next day. Cora gathered her things and we drove back to San Francisco. I had classes the following Monday and had to go back to my night job.
We did our first errands together when we arrived in California. Wanting to be macho, I selected most of the items, and Cora didn’t object. I bought a few cans of split pea soup – my favorite – a piece of cooked ham, milk, bread, dry cereal and a few other staples.
Our little efficiency-furnished apartment only had a frying pan, saucepan, silverware, and a few dishes.
I thought Cora would immediately cook something. She said her mother was the cook in their house. She thought that since I had taken the lead in racing, I would cook. The thing is, we hadn’t thought of that at all.
No problem. I opened the split pea soup, chopped the ham very well and put them together. I had done this campsite and knew that when heated it made a tasty meal. When I put it in bowls, Cora looked over and said, “It’s green!” I explained that all the split pea soup was green, but she didn’t even want to taste it. His parents were a “meat and potato” family.
I knew how to solve the problem. I went to the local grocer and bought red, blue and yellow food coloring. I put red food coloring in the soup, which turned it reddish brown. Cora looked at it and said, “All you did was color it. It really is still green.
It was my favorite, and I really splurged on it. We had very little money left and I had a young wife who was getting hungry. We went to the middle of the highway and ate hot dogs.
Luckily my brother Phil sent us a Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, which arrived the first week. While I was at school and at work, Cora read the cookbook. Over the next few weeks, she began to enjoy cooking.
Cora became an excellent cook and I was a good critic. From day one, I have always been completely honest about the quality of his cooking, which I have been fortunate to enjoy for several decades.
Raised on a local dairy farm, former Scottsdale City Councilman (1971-76), state legislator (1979-85) and honored oral historian Paul Messinger founded Messinger Mortuaries in 1959. He can be reached at 480- 860-2300 or 480-945-9521.