Do you have cooking in your blood? A chance encounter with genetics

Here’s what I learned today while having my blood drawn. My phlebotomist wasn’t planning to talk to me I don’t think. All business. Getting out vials and needles and such. No eye contact.

“Spell your last name for me.” I did. “What is your birthdate?” Done.

That’s what I thought until I looked at her plastic name tag and said, “I like your name. Iris.” She still looked down at her preparations.

“I have a friend who named her daughter Iris.,” I said. “She’s about ten, one of these kids who already knows what life is all about. I hear stories.”

She looked at me finally, and said, “I know what you mean. I had my grandson with me yesterday. He’s ten too. He always want s to cook, but his mom won’t let him. She’ afraid he’ll get burned.”

She poked me while she talked and it didn’t even hurt.

“I try to tell her to let him try, but she won’t have it. Anyway, I asked him what he wanted to cook and he says, ‘Chicken – with some oregano, and thyme.’

She finished with the first vial and switched to the second.

I said to him, “You are ten years old. What do you know about oregano?”

He gave me one of those looks like, ”everybody knows about oregano, Grandma. Don’t insult me.”


“My son too,” she said as she shook the first vial. “I was working an early shift then so I wasn’t there to make them breakfast. They were seven and nine. The nine year old wasn’t interested, so the seven year old made breakfast for him all that year.”

Yikes, I thought. Was there an adult with them?

She kind of answered. “I made him call me and tell me he’d turned off the burner so I could relax. No burns or fires or anything.” As if anticipating my concern, she said. “I was a single mom supporting us. You can’t always do what you’d like to.” Now she was shaking the second vial.

“Another time,” she said, “he wanted macaroni and cheese for dinner. I told him we didn’t have any. He went to the refrigerator and got out milk and cheese and then a box of macaroni from the cupboard and lined them up on the counter.

“He said, ‘Now do you think we don’t have mac and cheese?’ So we made it, actually he made it and I set the table.”

“It sound like he had the chef gene,” I said. “I didn’t know much about cooking till I was 25,” I said.

“That’s a true statement,” she said. “The boys’ father is a chef, even though he never especially showed them how.”

By now, I was all fixed up with a band aid and heading out the door. Another close encounter with another life.

“Bye, Iris,” I said. “Thanks. It was fun to talk.”

“You have yourself a good day,” she said with a smile.

On the way to the car, I pondered a question: What is passed down in my family?

It wasn’t cooking, that’s for sure. I think it must be playing around with words and stories – reading, writing, editing, storytelling (sometimes with words, sometimes images) are thick all around me.

How about you?


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