Ten, June....2011, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After years of inner turmoil, I am finally going to come clean. I have to, or my soul won't rest.
I have been carrying a secret for far too long and today is the day I put it behind me.
Danny Klecko loves home Economics....there, I've said it.
Now to some of you kids in this fast paced world, my confession may seem muted, but you have to remember that not everybody alive today grew up in a "PC" world.
When I was a boy.....men were men, and women were barefoot and pregnant.
The 60's drove away alot of these stero types, and in many ways this put culinary interest on it's ear.
Take my mother, her and her girlfriends smoked weed, burnt their bra's, spoke openly about what love making techniques they would apply to Tom Jones if they ever got the chance.
This behavior was deemed scandalous, but it was an important stand that needed to be made if women were going to gain equality and independence.
With this transformation in American family life, the first part of our life styles that took a hit was cooking.
Women no longer wanted to be viewed as an Aunt Bea or a Stepford Wife, so adios pot roast, and hello Swanson turkey pot pies!
I think when I was 3 my mom had me making my first Hungry man frozen dinner.
On the flip side however, we seldom hear how men have had to make sacrifices in the self actualization of todays society.
When I say Danny Klecko loves home economics, many of todays young men who watch the Food Network don't have a clue as to what price I had to pay to obtain my baking skill set.
Like Christ carried his cross up Golgotha, little Danny Klecko walked alone into uncharted territory.
This vast wasteland that I was about to enter was like the wild west. There were no rules. You had to literally be a warrior to survive.
I'll never forget the day I got the news. I had just graduated the 6th grade and was about to enter into middle school.
My neighbor Dougy Jermasek who was 3 years older tracked me down and blurted out.....
"Ha Ha loser, the school board just passed a new law and every kid from your grade on has to split time between Home Ec and Industrail Arts!"
He was correct, this happened, but people weren't clear as to whether or not this idea would get traction.
My class were the guinea pigs of District #281.
Before you new it, the news splashed all around the western suburbs.
People were outraged.
I remember greasing my bike chain in the garage of one of my friends and his dad came out and openly mocked this decision....
"Well, I suppose if you Mary's are ever going to learn how to drop an engine, I'm going to have to teach you, now that my tax dollars are gonna have you learning how to bake cakes!"
There were all kinds on associations between the tasks we were about to embark on, and being homosexual.
I didn't know what it meant to be homo, or hetero for than matter. I was 11 or 12 and naive.
But then it happened, my first day of classes commenced at Carl Sandburg Jr High.
I think on my first day, StarTribune TASTE Editor Lee Svitak Dean was finishing her last year.
As time has passed, I have kinda taken a pride that C.S.J.R. launched 2 of our community cornerstones, and even though only the 2 of us know it....It makes me proud to have gained my culinary passions in the same hallways as Ms. Dean.
So after all of us newbies finished navigating how to work a locker, and us boys had to hear the horror stories of how the gym teacher made you swim nude so he could watch you from and underground window in the diving section,I made my way throughout my day.
I had math first, english second, social studies third, but throughout all these classes, all that anybody wanted to talk about was how bad Home Ec was going to suck.
Well, I think it might have been 6th period, I know it was the last class of the day. I entered into Mrs. Williams cooking class.
Mrs. Williams was gentle and kind. Now that I look back, I am certain she had taken into account what each of us were going through.
On our very first day we had to sit in a semi circle and dialouge our feelings.
I don't remember exactly what I said, but I am sure I echoed the sentiments of the middle age men of my neighborhood......
Cooking was for girls, and shop was for boys.
Within minutes Mrs. Williams split us up into small groups and put me with 3 of the cutest young ladies you could imagine, and then she proceeded to give us Betty Crocker's recipe for Apple Crisp.
Throughout our project, me and the girls became friendly and I think they enjoyed having a boy with them.
This was the first time in my life I hade ever cooked or baked, and even though I wasn't the project leader, I took a great sense of pride in how our project turned out.
When everybody had their crisp in their bowl, Mrs williams got a huge grin on her face and asked "Who likes whip cream?"
I jumped up and exclaimed how I broke my arm when I was 4 crawling into a trash dumpster to eat disgarded Cool Whip, and this made my teached laugh.....
"Danny, tilt your head back."
And when I did she shot aerosol whip cream into my mouth, well part of it anyway, a bunch of it got into my nostrils so you can imagine, this won over a room filled with 7th grade kids.
By the time the bell rung, I had been converted. I knew I would rather be surrounded with woman and pastry than hanging out, sweating in my friends garages with their homophobe fathers.
They closed Carl Sandburg down a couple years ago, and Lee and I discussed our sadness over the phone.
I don't have many regrets in life, but I sure wish I could have told Mrs. Williams about the impact she has had on my life, and the lives of my family and community.
So thats it, I am out of the closet. I love Home Economics!
Enjoy the recipe.....................
Betty Crocker's Apple Crisp
4 medium tart cooking apples
(Greening,Rome, Granny Smith)
3/4 packed brown sugar
1/2 cup AP Flour
1/2 cup quick cooking old fashioned oats
1/3 cup butter
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
#1 - Heat oven to 375 F, Grease bottom and sides of 8-inch sqaure pan with butter or spray
#2 Spread Apples in pan, In medium bowl, stri remaining ingredients until well mixed, then sprinkle over apples
#3 Bake about 30 minutes or until topping is golden brown and apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Serve warm......with tons of Whip Cream!