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LET’S COOK: Reconnecting a friendship

By Staff | Aug 16, 2019

Macaroni, Ham and Broccoli Casserole Doris gave me this recipe, and she mentioned “it is easy, tasty, and brings smiles” - 2 ½ cups of dry macaroni cooked to your taste - 2 cups cooked chopped ham - 1 bunch freshly steamed and chopped broccoli or 1 10 oz. pkg. frozen broccoli cooked and chopped - 4 tablespoons grated onion - 2 tablespoons of butter - ¼ cup flour - ½ teaspoon dry mustard - ½ teaspoon salt - ½ teaspoon white pepper - 3 cups milk - 1 ½ cups cheese (Velveeta) - Parmesan cheese Heat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter in saucepan, add grated onion, flour and make a paste. Stir in milk to make a thin sauce. Add cheese, when melted add dry mustard, salt and pepper. Add cooked macaroni, ham and broccoli. Pour into a buttered 9x13 pan, top with parmesan cheese. Place in oven and bake until bubbly. Serve with garlic toast and fresh vegetables of choice.

Some hearts yearn to always move on and rarely remember the past, and some merely travel on the road of day-to-day experience. But the road that I like to travel on is the one zigzagging back and forth between present day and the past. Since moving back to Minot, I have had the opportunity to reconnect with former college friends. I like the way these reconnections make me feel, and it is enjoyable to see the paths people have chosen on life’s journey.

I met Doris Miller while at Minot State University where she was employed in the cafeteria. At that time, Minot State did many evening banquets, and I helped serve tables at these banquets. My brother, Kelly, and my wife, Jan, also worked in food service, and we came to know Doris and her hard-working cafeteria comrades.

In the past year, I had the privilege of seeing and visiting with Doris often. Her familiar way of say “hello” and wave of her hand brightened my day. But even more delightful was her always pleasant smile that she had at her command. With a twinkle in her eye, she recalled our days at Minot State. She always expressed friendliness towards former staff and students. She would pause a bit and then ask how Jan and Kelly were doing and mentioned that I should greet them from her. She had an interest in what we were all doing, and that is the beauty that comes from sincere friendship. In this circumstance-a reconnected friendship.

Doris passed away on July 28, 2019, and she was 92 years old. It was an honor to reconnect with her, and it has caused me to once again reflect on a member of “America’s Greatest Generation.” Doris was raised in Willow City and after high school attended Minot State College for two summers, earning the right to teach school which she did for two years. After her marriage to Melvin Miller, she worked on their rural Deering farm and raised their 7 children. Like many of her generation, she did countless tasks on the farm and each of these chores unannounced to her was extending her way in the world.

In time she and Melvin moved into Minot. It was at this time that she became employed at Minot State. She joined the cooking crew with Pearl Hanson, Helen Pettit, Irene Solie, Lorraine Klein, Ella Hass, Carolyn Loeffelbein and several others. She and their matching-plaid-patchwork-polyeste-tops with white skirts (I have the photo to prove it!) uniformed companions daily served wonderful and tasty meals at Minot State. Lucky us!

Doris understood that each student was an individual, and she took interest in their endeavors. She often asked me about photography, art club, and in the past year, cooking. Oh, how we could visit about cooking and the delight of recipes. She was an excellent cook and baker and had lots of practice with her family. She lived a good part of her life through pots and pans, and those of us who had the opportunity to taste her culinary skills, reached out eagerly because we knew that her touch with food would give us all a richer experience.

As time marches on, many times roles reverse; and thus was the case with Doris and me. This past spring, I had the opportunity to cook a meal for Doris and others. The table was set in a shades of greens and yellows-the hues that come alive when the spring sun gets busy. Light and lively greens, bright yellows and deep green–the kind you see when pine needles are in shadow. The meal was simple, chipped beef over toast, oil coleslaw and homemade vanilla pudding. It was all homemade and made with attention to seasoning. Doris enjoyed this meal and once again we chatted about the delights of cooking.

To me, Doris was young, and she stayed this way because she was on the move. She understood that staying active keeps a person young. It was, therefore, that she gave freely of her time volunteering at Trinity Homes, Our Lady of Grace Food Pantry, delivering books for the Minot Public Library, and being active at her church in several areas. All of these are common things, but she took great interest in them and knew the value that they brought to others.

Reconnecting with Doris reminded me that few things can compare with a friendship that brings inspiration and reminds us that when we take interest, we can all gain so much.

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