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A Self-Improvement Recipe

A terrible cook finds success in one amazing dish.

This cook found some success!

I am a terrible cook. Just ask my children. The only dish of mine they liked growing up was macaroni and cheese.

When she was 15, my younger daughter, Ashley, traveled to Hong Kong to visit our extended family. There, she was introduced to foods she had never tasted before: dim sum, lotus-root soup, steamed fish. She loved it all.

“I’m sorry, Mom,” she told me when she came home. “After trying so many exciting flavors this summer, I just can’t go back to mac and cheese.” My son, Scott, followed suit.

I just about hung up my apron after that. My husband, Eugene, did most of the cooking. He’d make wonderful chicken curry stews in our slow cooker. Sometimes I tried different recipes, but I always did something wrong. I put in too many vegetables or not enough spices. I would end up with a big pot of food that nobody liked, not even me.

One day about four years ago I decided to give cooking one last try. Maybe if I stick to something simple…How about fried rice, the classic Chinese comfort food? I didn’t have a recipe. With stir-fries, you add a little of this, a little of that. Onion, chopped luncheon meat, beans, rice, bell pepper and carrots went into my frying pan, along with soy sauce, spices and hoisin sauce. I tasted it. Not bad. I gave some to Eugene. He dug in and his eyes lit up. Then he finished the bowl and asked for seconds. That had never happened before!

Fried rice became my signature dish (actually my only dish). I brought it to potluck fund-raisers. Once I took some to a friend who was sick. She said something I never thought I would hear: “Willa, you’re a wonderful cook.”

If only my kids had been there!

One night last May Scott had some friends over to celebrate the end of their freshman year in college. I offered to make my fried rice. “We’ll just order pizza,” Scott said and joined his friends playing video games in the family room.

I decided to surprise him. I made a batch of fried rice. Within seconds, the smell drew his friends in. Then came Scott. “I’ll order the pizza now,” he said. By then, several of his friends had tasted the rice. “No, we want this!” they said.

Later, Scott did the dishes without being asked. Then he said, “Mom, thanks for the fried rice. It was a hit!”

God didn’t give me many culinary gifts, but I’m glad he gave me one dish that brings joy to others.

Try Willa’s Fried Rice recipe!

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