Chapter 16 – Leaving The Nest

In 1978, Diane started at the University of Chicago, pursuing an economics degree. I chose Michigan State, partly for its well-rated dietetics program, partly for scholarships I could get, and partly for the drinking age being 18! Ironically, shortly after I arrived, the drinking age was raised, but in a couple months I turned 19, allowing me to buy beer and wine in Illinois. Then the next year Illinois changed their law! No grandfather clauses, so I stocked up on wine.

My first year was spent in an all girl dorm; freshman did not get to choose where they lived. It was better than I thought it would be, and I made some good friends. Of course we were not isolated from boys, they were in our classes, at work and at parties. Toga parties were all the rage the first couple years. Most of my classes were not that hard, so I had a nice balance of study, work and fun.

my college yearbook photo
my college yearbook photo

Sophomore year I applied to be in a rather unique dorm, Williams Hall. Structurally, it was like the other classic old brick dorms, but each floor had a kitchen, and we could cook for ourselves instead of relying on meal plans. Luckily, a roommate accepted me, and I got in. I wanted to try being vegetarian after reading Diet For A Small Planet. There was a small food co-op a few blocks away so I had no trouble getting the sorts of ingredients I needed. I successfully ate vegetarian for a whole year, making only a couple exceptions for family events. Though my floor mates obviously cooked too, I made a bit of an impression for being able to make souffles and birthday cakes. I don’t know where I got the spinach souffle recipe, but I still make it.

Spinach Souffle
Spinach Souffle

Williams Hall also housed the campus test kitchen. I first volunteered to be on the taste panel, then I got to work behind the scenes with the dietitians in the test kitchen. I still had hours in my old dorm’s cafeteria too; I learned some culinary tricks there, but more in the test kitchen of course, like how to fix a cheese sauce that had broken down, by beating in hot water a little at a time.

I enjoyed the classes in my major, so I thought I was on the right track. The science of nutrition and related courses were interesting, and the food lab classes were fun. I really enjoyed food science where we got to “torture” food items to see what happened. We even had a little guillotine to measure how tender the pastry was. Junior year, I started dating a musician who lived in the same dorm. He was a non-traditional student and a fascinating person, but later I realized he was an alcoholic, so though it lasted longer than some other relationships I had in college, I eventually had enough.

Diane got engaged to her long time boyfriend John in 1980, and planned the wedding for September 1981. I stayed in Michigan to work & take a summer course that year, but came home every so often. On one of these trips, we got busy looking at bridal magazines while making Swedish Tea Rings. Then we got inspired by some designs we saw and decided to check for them at the local bridal shop. We forgot we had tea rings in the oven already! We had a great time shopping, but came home to blackened tea rings and angry parents. Swedish Tea Ring is a family specialty; my mother made it for many occasions, sometimes as a thank you gift. I carried on with it, and the bridal shopping incident was the only time I totally ruined it. Years later, it took second place in the Minnesota State Fair, once in the nineties, and more recently in 2016. I use all white flour when baking for competition, but started experimenting with whole wheat flour for general eating at home.

A couple months before Diane’s wedding, Muffin passed away at the age of 13. I was heartbroken, feeling especially bad for not being home at the time. My parents got new kittens from the same shelter after a bit, but they were shy, and I was never home long enough after that to get close, because it was time to make my own way in the world. Diane also managed to graduate from college somewhat early, so she was out before me and soon had a job as an insurance claims adjuster. I met with various recruiters before I graduated in the spring of 1982. I had been in a coordinated undergraduate program, meaning I was fulfilling internship requirements while still in college, so I was eligible to take the Registered Dietitian exam at the first opportunity after graduating. By this time, I was having doubts about whether I liked the actual work. Hospitals had a very hierarchical, authoritarian structure that rubbed me the wrong way, but I didn’t know what else I could do at that point, so I accepted an offer from Service Direction, which provided food service management to various facilities. I was given a choice of a small rural hospital in Iowa or Minnesota. I picked Minnesota, and so began my journey to the north and presumed adulthood.

Spinach Souffle

Recipe source unknown
2 servings

8 ounce Spinach ; chopped
4 tablespoon All purpose flour
3 tablespoon Butter
1 cup Milk
1 cup Cheddar ; shredded
1 pinch Nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon Marjoram
1/4 teaspoon Salt
4 large Egg ; separated

Cook spinach in small amount of water and drain. Set aside.

Make white sauce: Melt butter over med low heat, stir in flour. Add milk gradually, stirring constantly. Cook until smooth.

Stir in cheese gradually . Add seasonings and remove from heat.

Beat egg yolks, then stir into sauce. Stir in spinach.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold sauce carefully into whites.

Spoon into a dish that has been greased and coated with fine bread crumbs. Bake at 400 for 10 min, then 325 for 40-50 min.


Swedish Tea Ring

Recipe by Donna Nelson Simonian, later modified by me
2 tea rings, 24 servings

2 package Yeast ; dissolved in
1/2 cup Water ; warm
1 1/2 cup Milk ; scalded, then cooled
1/2 cup Sugar
1/2 cup Butter
2 large Eggs ; beaten
1 teaspoon Cardamom
1 teaspoon Salt
3 cups Whole wheat flour
3 cups All purpose flour
4 tablespoon Butter ; softened
1/2 cup Brown sugar
4 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 cup Raisins

Add butter, sugar, salt, and cardamom to warm milk.

Measure 2 cups of of whole wheat flour into mixing bowl. Stir in dissolved yeast and milk mixture. Alternately add small amounts of both flours and eggs to keep a thick batter until ingredients are combined. Continue adding flour gradually until a kneadable dough forms. Knead until smooth and springy, on a floured surface or in mixer with dough hook, adding flour in small amounts as needed.

Place in greased bowl, turn to grease top, cover and let rise in warm place until double, about 1 hour. Punch down, let rise again. Punch down and form into 2 balls. Roll each into a 9 x 13 rectangle. Spread butter on 2/3 of surface, leaving a margin to seal when done rolling. Sprinkle buttered area with cinnamon, brown sugar, and raisins. Roll up like a jelly roll. Form into a circle on greased pan. Make cuts from the outer edge to 3/4 of the way in, about 1 inch apart. Turn cut sections slightly on side. Let rise until almost double.

Bake at 350 degrees 25-30 min. until golden brown. May frost or glaze if desired.

Swedish Tea RIng
Swedish Tea RIng




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