Cooking With Myra: I would like to see how they really live
By Myra Starkey
April 16, 2013 at midnight
Updated April 15, 2013 at 11:16 p.m.
Last weekend, Taylor and I went to Rockport for the homes tour. It is always a treat for us to go see other people's homes in the way the structures are built and the way they are decorated or what you would call the architecture and interior design.
Many of the houses are vacation homes, and they have a fresh, unoccupied sort of look and smell. This may be because they have just freshly painted every wall in anticipation of the homes tour. From my perspective, these houses are way too clean and neat to be inhabited by humans.
Our friends Cindy and Chris joined us for the weekend. I have known both of them for a very long time, and I don't get to spend much one-on-one time with them. Cindy is sort of a health nut, so I am always a little anxious to cook for her.
She is thin and muscular and obviously doesn't eat a lot of bad food. I pored through cookbooks, looking for the perfect, light meal and finally settled on a shrimp Creole from my new cookbook, "Fried Chicken and Champagne," by Lisa Dupar. I felt like this choice could be eaten without rice, so she would probably feel comfortable eating it.
Cindy called and asked whether she could prepare something to go with our meal, and I said, "Sure, whatever you want," she said. "We will make fried oysters."
I immediately smiled and felt the cooking anxiety roll right off my mind. Apparently, even health conscious folks eat fried foods - just not very much of them.
We spent the day together touring the five houses and one sailboat on the tour. The homes are mostly painted pastel colors but a few had splashes of bold oranges, yellows and greens. I think the current coastal color of choice is sea foam blue because many of the houses had this on the interior walls.
There were a lot of shell mirrors, rattan chairs, cream-colored couches and coral pillows. One of the homes had a collection of octopi, and representations of these creatures were on shelves, walls and quilts. It was tastefully done.
I sometimes wished the lady of the house would appear before us and assure us that their house has never been as neat as it was that day. Somehow, when I am going through those rooms, looking at spotless baseboards, beds perfectly made with pillows just so and tables set for guests with beautiful dishes, I feel guilty.
I know my own home needs more attention. Most likely, my bed was not even made that morning. After all, it was a Saturday. And who even knows how to keep cobwebs off of rattan chairs.
One of the homeowners had a craft room overlooking the bay that I would have chewed my arm off at the elbow to have. She was a quilter and had a wall of shelving. Each shelf was divided into a box of about 18 inches by 20 inches. Inside each box was a stack of fabrics, all divided by color and pattern. They were neatly displayed and folded in exactly the same way. The shelving itself was artwork.
Her quilt in progress hanged from a rod and there was not even a piece of thread in sight. Her house was filled with quilts of all sizes and colors, and I know she must spend many hours in that room. I would love to knock on her door late one night and ask to see her craft room - just to see if it is always that neat.
Another house had a great outdoor kitchen and swimming pool. Next to the pool were chairs perfectly positioned, facing the pool and near them was a great big basket filled with brand new beach towels. The old tattered ones that they allowed the kids to use were stowed away somewhere out of sight. The effect was lovely. I would have loved to jump in the pool and then towel off with one of those fluffy brand new towels. However, this is not considered proper behavior during a homes tour.
My 150-year-old home has been on a tour a couple of times, and I want to assure everyone that what you see is not how a person actually lives. In the usual situation, there is dust on almost every horizontal surface, a few cobwebs and the baseboards need scrubbing.
There are books, magazines and newspapers scattered about, waiting to be read once one might have the free time. When the kids were little, there were toys all over.
When it is tour time, one should avoid opening any drawer or closet because they are packed with all the stuff we use every day but had to temporarily put up for the tour.
I would like to go on a tour called "The Reality of How People Live Homes Tour," which would make a lot of us feel better about ourselves.
The four of us finished our tour and noticed there was an open house down the street. The house was for sale, and even though none of us were in the market for a house, we decided to go in. The house was 36 years old and bore the weight of those years, particularly because it was right on the water and continually surrounded by salty breezes.
There were a few magazines laid about and a newspaper or two rolled up in baskets. This was a house that had been lived in, laughed in and now was ready to go on to the next generation of owners. Although it was neat, it needed some repairs, some painting and new appliances.
I wish I could have opened the refrigerator and looked in. It would have probably been packed with containers, old and new. Some of the food should have been thrown out days ago but was hanging on just in case. In other words, the refrigerator would have looked normal - not pretend.
I am always grateful to those people who let us peer into their lives for a day, to look in their closets, restrooms, bedrooms, kitchens, etc. and at all their furniture, art and knickknacks and gawk and hopefully keep our comments to ourselves.
The homeowners have gone to great effort. But they are also proud of the home they have created because it is an expression of themselves. And homes tours raise lots of money for good causes, in this case, the Rockport Center for the Arts.
I have been cooking from the "Fried Chicken and Champagne" cookbook for about a month and discovered a delicious cookie recipe. I have made dozens of them and get a lot of compliments. They are called Redmond Crisp Cookies, most likely because of the cornflakes they contain.
They are crisp on the outside and remain chewy on the inside. They also make great ice cream sandwiches . try vanilla bean or strawberry ice cream sandwiched inside two cookies and frozen to set the ice cream.
Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.