I am rather a fan of the Gluten-Free Girl (as I've mentioned before) and one day last week she tweeted asking people about their experiences learning to cook as a child. I tweeted back about dump cake.
In reality, however, dump cake is the first thing I really remember cooking independently, but that does not mean it's really the first thing I ever cooked. My family is full of cooks, male and female, and I always loved to eat and I always wanted to be in the middle of it. I also wanted to pass that on to my kids, and my daughter started learning to mix things at about 9 months old.
But back to the dump cake. It was glorious! I guess when I "officially" started cooking was in Girl Scouts at Girl Scout camp. Our first camping trip in Brownies was actually in my grandmother's back yard. We did an overnight to get ready to go to an actual campground. At any rate, we made a scotchbox oven (a fascinating invention-- you should really try one!) and cooked the dump cake in it.
Dump Cake Recipe:
1 can crushed pineapple
1 can cherry pie filling
1 box yellow cake mix
2 sticks of butter (we probably ate margarine)
Directions: Grease your pan well. Dump the pineapple in the bottom of the pan and spread it out, then top with the cherry pie filling. Spread the cake mix over the fruit mixture, and top with the butter. Cook until cake mix is done. The result is somewhat like a cobbler.
Now, today, as an adult, that sounds like a grotesque mixture of gluten and high fructose corn syrup, not even touching on real food.
But as a child, it was devastatingly delicious. I felt as though I were a wilderness woman, akin to my hero Laura Ingalls Wilder. I BUILT an OVEN and I BAKED a CAKE. I was strong, and accomplished. I was smart, and could be trusted with FIRE. I thought, in fact, I could conquer anything. Little did I know I would learn at some point to cook many other things at camp, eggs in a sack on a stick over a campfire, porkchops on a brick.
And little did I know that I would soon learn to cook not only outside, but indoors as well. I would learn the awesome feeling of providing tasty and healthy sustenance for others. Little did I know that as I bemoaned my inability to draw well, to paint well, to dance well, I had not yet discovered my ability to create through food. I did not yet know the satisfaction of hearing a child say "yum" when you feed her food that is actually good for her.
But that instance of creating dump cake in my Mema's back yard, that let to my passion and creative outlet of cooking. And howevermuch that dump cake was comprised completely of junk food, what it led to was far worth it.