Have you ever noticed that as we get older the negative voices from our childhood grow quieter while the positive ones become louder? All those embarrassing moments become funny, and all those things we used to hate about ourselves become the things we love the most. The hurtful things become less painful and we learn to cherish the moments that shaped us.
It’s been nearly 30 years since I met Mrs. Briney. She was a lifesaver for me in 6th grade as I awkwardly maneuvered through my first year in public school after being homeschooled for most of grade school. I recall my first day in her class as I sat stone still in my desk while everyone else was chattering as they unpacked their brand spankin’ new backpacks and put their shiny new books in their lockers. I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing, and it was obvious. Mrs. Briney made her way to me and smiled as she helped me settle in.
That wasn’t the only time Mrs. Briney would come to my rescue. It happened again in math class later in the year when she noticed that I was struggling with multiplication tables. For weeks, she would spend one-on-one time with me, teaching me cool tricks for learning those tables while the rest of my class worked on other projects.
When I was in 7th grade, I won our school Spelling Bee. Spelling was one of the few things that came easy to me, but I never set out to win a Spelling Bee. I think Mrs. Briney was more excited than I was about the win. I recall her encouraging me to study hard because she believed that I had it in me to win the county bee that was coming up.
The day of the Fergus County Spelling Bee arrived and I hadn’t studied a lick. I figured that if I could win the school bee without studying then I would be okay. I was right. I won the Fergus County Spelling Bee and have the picture to prove it. I’ve included it for your viewing pleasure. Oh…and that’s me with the hair, in case you couldn’t tell.
The first stop we made on our way home was Mrs. Briney’s house. Mom and I walked to her door and knocked. I will never forget the smile on her face as I showed her my 1st place trophy. She was SO proud of me! Again, she told me to study because she believed that I was capable of winning the Montana State Spelling Bee. Did I listen? Let’s just say, I made it through the first few rounds without any trouble. Then along came “RESERVOIR.” I will never forget how to spell that word as long as I live. I heard the dreaded “bell” and exited the stage feeling foolish and dreading telling Mrs. Briney that I hadn’t won. If I’d only studied.
Now, as I prepare for one of the biggest competitions in my culinary career, World Food Championships (WFC), I hear Mrs. Briney’s voice telling me to study and practice. You see, food sport is very similar to a spelling bee. There is no room for error. There are no second chances. One wrong move and it’s over. The only way to guarantee a performance that you’ll be proud of is to study and practice and study some more.
So, I’m feverishly testing, experimenting, practicing, writing and rewriting until everything is just so. I’ve never been so meticulous about anything in my life! But, I’ll have no regrets when it’s over. The icing on the cake is that my family will be at World Food Championships with me…all 5 kids, the hubby, and my parents. My mom and 17-year old son will be my sous chefs and we’re going to make some incredible memories and learn some valuable lessons that I can file away with the rest.