Scottsdale history: Cooking is a learned art

·3 min read
Paul and Cora Messinger shortly after they got married on Thanksgiving Day in 1950.
Paul and Cora Messinger shortly after they got married on Thanksgiving Day in 1950.

I met my wife, Cora, when we were in seventh grade, but when we got married on Thanksgiving in 1950, we had never discussed the domestic side of married life. In other words, she had no idea whether I picked up my clothes or washed dishes. I didn’t know if she cooked or knew how to wash and iron.

We had both lived busy lives. She worked at Valley Bank and supported her elderly parents. I had been attending college, working a job and helping on the family farm.  Dates were to the movies or occasionally eating out. The subject of housekeeping never came up when we were together.

In late August of 1950 I left Arizona to attend the San Francisco College of Mortuary Science. I left my car with Cora, as her family did not have one, and I wouldn’t need it while going to school. We wrote each other every day or two, as neither of us had phones.

I flew home on Thanksgiving eve, and we were married by the justice of the peace in Coolidge the next day. Cora gathered up her belongings, and we headed back to San Francisco in the car. I had classes the following Monday and had to get back to my night job.

We did our first grocery shopping together when we got to California. Wanting to be macho, I selected most of the items, and Cora didn’t object. I bought a few cans of split pea soup – my favorite – a piece of cooked ham, milk, bread, dry cereal and a few other staples.

Our little furnished efficiency apartment had only one fry pan, one sauce pan, silverware and a few dishes.

I thought Cora would immediately cook something. She said her mom was the cook in their house. She thought since I took the lead in the shopping, I would cook. The fact is we hadn’t thought about it at all.

No problem. I opened the split pea soup, chopped the ham real fine and put them together. I had done this camping and knew that when heated, it made a tasty meal.  When I put it in bowls, Cora took one look and said, “It’s green!” I explained all split pea soup is green, but she wouldn’t even taste it. Her folks were a “meat and potato” family.

I knew how to solve the problem. I went to the little grocer on the corner and bought red, blue and yellow food coloring. I put red coloring in the soup, which turned it reddish-brown. Cora looked at it and declared, “All you did was color it. It’s really still green.”

It was my favorite, and I had really splurged on it. We had very little money left, and I had a young wife who was getting hungry. We went to the midway by the highway and ate hot dogs.

Fortunately, my brother Phil sent us a Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook, which arrived that first week. While I was at school and work, Cora read the cookbook. In the next few weeks, she began to enjoy cooking.

Cora became a great cook, and I was a good critic. From the first day, I was always totally honest as to the quality of her cooking, which I was lucky enough to enjoy for several decades.

Reared on a local dairy farm, former Scottsdale city councilman (1971-76), state legislator (1979-85) and honored oral historian Paul Messinger founded Messinger Mortuaries in 1959.  He can be reached at 480-860-2300 or 480-945-9521.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Scottsdale history: Cooking is a learned art