My experience with cooking gave me a job in the college cafeteria when I went to Fredonia State Teachers College, which is now part of the University of the State of New York.

Fredonia was a small college. The cafeteria was in Old Main. As part of the first building on the campus, it was really old. At dinner my job was on the line. I cut and plated desserts to go on the stainless steel shelves. I dished salads and put them out. Or if I was assigned beverages, I served coffee and tea, and made sure milk was in the ice ready for pickup. The steam table was usually assigned to taller workers, but occasionally to me.

Our cafeteria bought its food from a commissary that served the steel mills in Dunkirk and western New York. Consequently, we often received leftovers in 2-gallon jobs to reheat in our steam table. The jugs might contain stew, a hamburger goulash, or macaroni and cheese.

A couple of semesters I worked the grill on the breakfast shift. Weekdays we had a given daily item such as French toast, scrambled eggs, or pancakes with bacon or sausage. On weekends, I gave everyone their choice because traffic through the breakfast line was always slow until the last five minutes before we closed at 9:00.

The Student Christian Association soon figured out that when they had a retreat at the college camp, I could and would organize the meals. The same was true of the Methodist Youth Group that I attended. When food was called for I found myself in the church kitchen.

I needed summer job after my freshman year. I called the judge in my town who also acted as the employment agency. An elderly couple living in their lakeside home needed help. Mrs. R had broken her right wrist and couldn’t manage the housework. I became their chief cook, bottle washer, laundry main, and cleaning lady.

Sometime during the summer, Mr. R learned I could bake a pie. Blueberries grew on their land next to the house. Several times each summer I picked the berries and baked a pie for them, much to Mr. R’s delight.

The first year there I wasn’t required until about ten in the morning. Once I finished the day’s work about 2:00, I was free until time to get dinner. I would walk around the end of the lake to a resort where other friends worked, or go to the movie there in the evening with a young man whose family had a cabin on the lake. A passenger boat cruised the lake all afternoon and evening, so we didn’t have to walk back.

I continued to work for the Rs the following two summers and I had graduated from college.


Double the recipe for crust from custard pie. Set oven at 425 F.

Dust the bottom crust with a tablespoon of flour. Mix together 1/4 cup flour, 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg. Fill crust with blueberries. Spread sugar mixture over them. Add the top crust. Slit the crust in a pattern or “B.” Bake for 10 minutes in hot oven. Reduce heat to 350 F and bake until juice begins to bubble through a slit in the crust. Cool on a rack. Serve with cheese or scoop of vanilla ice cream.




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