Friday Firesmith – The Cup

Back when I got out of the Army in 1985, I decided to learn how to cook real food. That’s one of the things that sucks about being in the Army in that you get what you get for food. If they’re having baked chicken and hamburger day, then that’s your choices. If you were late for a meal you missed it. You ate what you were served and you got there when they told you to get there.

Of course, I was in college right out of service, and I was broke. Learning to cook what little I could afford wasn’t hard. There was a short list of affordable ingredients, and a shorter list of things I could experiment with. Yet I bought a cookbook, and I bought a measuring cup. The cup was a one cup cup, smallish, and cheap plastic. It survived my first attempts at cooking, survived half a dozen moves, and finally one day, about ten years ago, a girlfriend asked me, “Why the hell do you have this dinky plastic measuring cup?” and I realized I could do better. The plastic cup was demoted to measuring dog food, and I bought two nice glass Pyrex cups, one was the two cup size.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2019, the plastic measuring cup broke.

I remember dropping it right after I bought it and it bounced like eleven times and ricocheted off a chair. I was sure it had broken then, and back then, losing something that cost a dollar was a big deal to me. I rarely threw away leftovers because there was so little to eat. When I got a real job and could afford more, I was careful with it, and I kept the little plastic cup as I continued my quest to learn how to cook, and learn I did.

A few things did learn, in this journey. First and foremost, Garlic is of the Gods. A good garlic press is like having a Holy Relic. Never enter a kitchen without one. Next, vegetables should be steamed, not boiled. Third, instructions from a cook book are suggestions only. You have to learn on your own. And finally, salt is widely abused, and too much used in America.

I remember trying to cook brown rice for the first time. Having my little cup and my one saucepan, and a bit of butter, I was stunned to find out rice took forty minutes to cook. Surely that wasn’t right. But I learned how to cook brown rice, and realized very early in life that rice was a wonderful and versatile thing.

Things, objects, instruments and tools, should be valued, but not loved. They’re expendable once their use in gone, and there is no sadness in this. I’m not the skinny twenty-something that was counting pennies on the counter to get a measuring cup and I haven’t been for decades now. Yet at the same time, I think that was one of the best buys I ever made in my life, and I did learn how to cook with what little I could afford.

Take Care,

Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.


13 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – The Cup”

  1. I’ll add to the tools, kitchen or otherwise, you can’t have too many duplicates, you’ll need it sooner or later.

  2. I learned to cook watching my mother and grandparents. By 16 I was married and cooking supper every night for my husband, who very much appreciated what I had to offer. We are long divorced, but I used to send food to him when my son went to visit, I knew what his favorites were, and if we had leftovers, I couldn’t see them going to waste. Those days are long gone.
    As far as tools, I use my citrus squeezer quite frequently, and not only for drinks.

  3. Even after 45 years of marriage, we have a handful of items from the era of being dirt poor. Our children call them the family heirlooms. There is the large green/brown melamine bowl that started life as our only mixing bowl and ended up being known as the “barf bowl” when the kids were feeling ill and it was given to them in their beds (sadly it broke about 8 years ago, and my daughter had tears in her eyes when we told her). The cheap fuzzy “purple blanket” was given to us at our wedding, surviving against all odds while serving on our bed, as a couch blanket, as a child comfort blanket. One visiting child asked for it last year, causing a small family crisis when the other two became jealous of the gift. The final item that fell into the family heirloom category was a can of frozen orange juice that lived in the back of our freezer for maybe 25 years, and we didn’t know it was one until we threw it out and the kids couldn’t believe it was gone. I wonder if everyone has items like this?

    • Danny, there was this knife my parents owned. For years it was the only kitchen knife they owned at all. I still remember it being in the kitchen drawer when was grown up. I have no idea if it is still there, but yes, family heirloom!!!

  4. I still use the set of mustardy coloured Tupperware measuring cups from a party plan before I was married (47 years ago) I read recently they contain some health hazardous chemical or other, but I wont stop using them.
    Nobody darns socks anymore, but I was delving through an odds and ends sewing basket last weekend. One of the grandchildren wanted a big eyed needle for a project she was making. She spotted the wooden darning mushroom, and wanted to know what it was used for. As grandmothers do, I related to her the stories of my Mum, darning woolen socks on it, and how you could buy skeins of different coloured darning wool. She listened with interest, and asked that I leave the ‘mushroom’ to her in my will 🙂 She would treasure it and tell the story to her one day children.

    • SandG, I sure wish I had grandchildren to tell my mushroom stories to, but I’m pretty sure Child Services would frown upon it.

  5. Not sure when I took an interest in cooking, but it was my older sister who came to me to teach her how to make our mother’s raviolis. My specialty is New Orleans cuisine, but anything that sounds good will end up in my sights to try.

    As for utensils, pots, etc., it’s an effort on my part to resist having this gadget or that gadget. But I can say I have owned several items for many years and would be sad to lose them. In time, in order to have room in my cabinets when I will need to downsize, I will have to part with some pans and that will involve some difficult choices.

    On a related note, I had offered you a food website some time ago ( and wonder if you had looked into it, and if so, any thoughts? No worry if you didn’t like it, because FU. 😀

    • CAI, I took a look at it and now it’s bookmarked. Don’t care what Firesmith says about it, I’ll put it to good use. 🙂

    • CAI,

      I had to part with a lot of my kitchen stuff when Mom moved in six months ago. But I also got rid of a lot of stuff that needed to go. Other than my crockpot and my garlic press, the rest is expendable.

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