Before the Internet, fast food restaurants, and takeout, high school girls of my generation took home economics class. It was one of the few electives available to us girls in 1968. Boys didn’t take home economics. It just didn’t happen, and by all counts may even have been illegal. We girls didn’t take shop class. To do so was unthinkable!
We girls were thrilled with our Home Ec. elective. It gave us a break from academia and afforded us an opportunity to develop the prized homemaking skills we were told we’d need to care for our future husbands and families. As I recall, Home Ec. was divided into two semesters: the first was sewing, the second meal preparation and nutrition. Since women of that time rarely cooked without wearing an apron, our first sewing project was making our own apron to wear in the cooking lab.
I chose to make a half apron and learned how to cut out a pattern, pin it to the fabric, cut the fabric, baste the garment, thread the sewing machine, and guide the material under the advancing presser foot. By semester’s end, I finished my apron and wore it proudly, for having my own apron was symbolic of womanhood and a rite of passage into it.
The next semester, I learned cooking terms, how to read a recipe, and how to create a balanced diet using the food pyramid. What excited me the most about cooking class was all the cookie recipes! I had an almost uncontrollable love for sweets, especially cookies. So strong were my cookie cravings that I was implicated in the notorious 1968 chocolate chip cookie dough caper my friends and fellow future homemakers engineered. Okay, I did eat a little of the dough, but I wasn't involved in the actual heist. I was, at most, an accessory after the fact. Regardless, I was sent to the principal’s office and given a choice to either serve detention for a week or stay after school and clean the cooking lab ovens. I opted to clean the ovens, all while wearing the apron I’d made.
At year’s end, most of my friends discarded their aprons as well as their love for homemaking choosing other electives like cheerleading, drill team, choir, and band. I continued taking home economics classes then majored in college home economics, hoping to become a home economics teacher—until the day I set the cooking lab on fire. Apparently, I didn’t have much of an aptitude for serious cooking. I did, however, have a fiery passion for words and writing. I switched majors and became an English teacher instead.
Now, I rarely cook or sew, but my love for sweets, especially chocolate chip cookies, remains. I occasionally give in to my hankering, don my first apron, and make homemade chocolate chip cookies. More often than not, I indulge myself by setting aside some refrigerated cookie dough that I secretly eat by the spoonfuls while ordering takeout and wait for the chocolate chip cookies to bake.