Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Oh, the Irony

Ladies and gentlemen, I am a record-breaker.

I’m not kidding – prepare to be astounded.  You might want to sit down.

You see, I was the only student ever to win the Home Economics award 3 years in a row at John Jay Middle School (home of the Statesmen, née Indians, which was later determined to be politically incorrect).  I know.  It’s a lot to take in.  Perhaps you should take a minute?

There.  Feeling better?  I’ve often wondered why I was the love object of the Home Ec. department.  So far, the answer seems to be: I was probably the only student who didn’t absolutely hate it.  Because certainly there are more precise cross-stitchers out there.  Better ironers, absolutely.  I recall my 8th grade pillow project turning out a little lumpy.  And don’t tell, but once I think I packed the flour while making baking powder biscuits.

But it’s true, I never hated home ec. – maybe I even enjoyed it a little.  And why not?  In other classes I sat there, quiet and obedient, cramming my brain with facts about the War of 1812, how Density = Mass/Volume, and blah, blah, blah.  In Home Ec., I didn’t have to think.  This was basic stuff!  How to fold a shirt?  Are you joking?  Who raised you?

Well apparently you were all raised by wolves, because I won the Home Ec. award every single year of middle school. 

You can imagine how embarrassing this was.  The Home Ec. teachers were all a motherly mix of frumpy and sweet, and while I’m sure they thought they were honoring my excellent performance, little did they know they were actually ruining my social standing for the next 5 years, and maybe my entire life.  Year after year I sat in the windowless, overheated gymnasium at the end-of-year awards ceremony, praying that I wouldn’t get the Home Ec. award.  And year after year I was obliged to march from the back of the gym to the front, where the principal and the Home Ec. teachers stood on a collapsible platform, and accept my award to a chorus of snickering pre-teens and their families.  Even my parents snickered.  (Yes, I saw you guys.  Thanks for the support.)  One year they reported that upon the announcement of my award, a man sitting nearby chortled, “Is she gonna bake us a pie?”  I waited for my parents to explain how they valiantly defended me in front of this thug, but instead they spent the car ride home imitating the way he put a Southern accent on the word “pie.”  “Hey Becca,” they laughed, “are you gonna bake us a pa-ah?”

I’d like to make it clear that I won other awards besides Home Economics.  Lots, in fact!  The English award.  The Spanish award.  The… something… award.  I was inducted into a society for women in science, which at the time sounded like a membership I would have preferred to decline.  There were probably others too, but the point is that nobody remembers them.  They only remember the Home Ec. awards, and they remember all of those.

Fortunately, life moves on.  I graduated and began high school.  The next year, the middle school determined that award ceremonies were politically incorrect.  Later, I attended a highly competitive private school where I was never again subjected to the humiliation of being recognized for achievement, in anything.

Still, even after all these years, it is not without a touch of irony that I’ve spent most of this summer working at a well-known women's lifestyle magazine that is the veritable bible of the Home Economics movement.

it's either a bible or a cookbook

The office is like my old Home Ec. room raised to the 100th power.  We have labs for testing sheets and towels, vacuum cleaners, and stove-top oven ranges.  While I’m often busy researching the latest findings from the nutrition world, writing blog posts, contributing to magazine articles, and coordinating taste tests, I would be remiss to omit the fact that I’ve also done a fair amount of recipe development.  And you know what?  There’s still something comforting about stepping away from my stack of journal articles, putting on an apron, and breaking out the measuring cups.  So nice, in fact, that – dare I say it? – maybe I deserved those Home Ec. awards after all.

I just have one thing to say:

Make your own f%*&ing pie.