Cooking With Myra: Secret to a happy marriage

By Myra Starkey
June 5, 2012 at 1:05 a.m.

'Happily Ever After' Spicy Pretzels

'Happily Ever After' Spicy Pretzels

Weddings. What a special time for all who attend. They are a celebration of love and of commitment and great fun, but it takes a lot of folks to carry off the perfect wedding.

This time of year, couples are exchanging vows every weekend. The invitations seem to arrive weekly because my children and my friends' children are becoming the age that they meet someone, fall in love and marry.

A few months ago, my friend, Laura, called me excitedly and informed me that her son, Christopher, was getting married. I have known Christopher for his entire life. We met his parents after we moved to Victoria 24 years ago and have been friends ever since.

Doug and Laura have vacationed with us, shared meals and holidays, wept at sadness and rejoiced at births. And over the years, our babies have become young adults.

Our lives are intertwined with each other and bound by memories encompassing more than two decades.

Last February, Christopher decided to ask his girlfriend, Ciera, to marry him. They wanted to get married in May at his family home in Shiner. It was just four months away, so Laura and I began to think of all things wedding. Laura threw herself into the preparations for the upcoming event. The bride and groom wanted a family affair and added a few other friends. Fortunately, I made the cut.

I offered to cater the rehearsal dinner and enlisted my friend, Janet, as the sous chef. I know she loves adventure and catering for 60 plus is always an adventure. Over the next several months, Janet, Laura and I schemed and scheduled, spending hours on the website Pinterest in order to get ideas.

My part was easy. I just had to pull off the rehearsal dinner. Christopher wanted a Texas barbecue, since Ciera is from Missouri, and he wanted to showcase the local cuisine.

I enlisted my friend, Judy, paper crafter extraordinaire, to help us with the invitations. Janet and I decided to use a craft paper with a bandana paper cutout design and we titled the dinner the "I do barbecue" (my friend Mary Ann thought of the title). Janet and I have blue splatterware dishes, so we thought these added to the Texas theme. I also own mason jar mugs (call me a redneck if you like, but these are extremely useful) for sweet tea.

Christopher put in a request for my apple jelly glazed baby back ribs, garlic bread, green beans and sweet tea. Janet and I agonized over the dessert, or rather I agonized and Janet just said, "Make a decision, and let's get on with it."

I chose dark chocolate pots de creme topped with whip cream. This was served in pint mason jars and decorated with a paper cut out with the words "happily ever after" tied around the rim with jute string.

The night was beautiful, a starry sky with just the right amount of breeze. Janet and I set a series of tables in a long line, with 30 guests sitting on each side. The table was draped with white muslin and topped with burlap squares. Colorful zinnias and herbs filled mason jars (of course) and were placed along with flickering candles down the center of the table.

Janet and I enlisted an able partner in a guy named Dave, who lives in Shiner. He knows his way around the barbecue pit and was great help in the kitchen. It continues to amaze me that almost every time I have cooked for a large party, we complete all the tasks in just the nick of time.

I am not sure if it is luck or sheer determination, but we were ready when the guests arrived. It all turned out great and nobody complained about the ribs hot off the pit or the chilled chocolate dessert.

After the party, Janet and I spent the night at Laura's house, so we could be available to help her get ready for the wedding the next day. Other friends arrived to help that morning as we placed tables and chairs on the lawn for the wedding guests.

Although I did not know Christopher's fiance beforehand, I knew I would love her when I finally met her. Christopher was glowing as he moved about the tasks Laura asked him to do. He was so appreciative of all the folks who had come to help. Christopher is an artist at heart. He has always had a very creative side.

He currently works in film, and I have no doubt I will one day sit in a movie which he has produced. His bride is studying to be a teacher. She is beautiful with long blonde hair and a slim, petite figure. I enjoyed watching the two love birds the evening before as they whispered quietly with their heads touching. I do not recall being this calm at my rehearsal dinner.

The wedding took place in the early afternoon in the front yard with a large oak and ivy-covered lawn as a back drop. The preacher clearly knew both the bride and groom well and gave words of advice for a life of love and joy.

Christopher reminded all of us that a chord of three is not broken with the third as God in their marriage. I sat in the audience somewhat tired, and yet so excited for the lives they are starting. I thought back 30 years ago, when Taylor and I made the same commitment to one another to love and cherish until death did us part.

At the end of the wedding, we relaxed together and shared a meal in the backyard. Fortunately, it was done by a professional caterer and not me. There was fried chicken, Southern ham, pasta salad, lemonade, ice cream and beautiful wedding cupcakes (made by Sylvia). The couple rode away on a bicycle-built-for-two toward a new life together.

Taylor and I celebrated our anniversary on June 5. I have never regretted a moment of my decision to marry him. I am sometimes asked what the secret is to a happy marriage, and I would say that having God as the third and involved partner of the relationship has been our greatest help. That has helped us avoid the selfishness that is the biggest killer of marriages.

Laura had asked for my recipe for spicy pretzels. She prepared snack packs for all the out-of-town guests staying in Shiner. This is actually not a recipe that I thought up. My friend, Lori, gave it to me, so I am only passing it on. Enjoy.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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