You Can’t Eat The Best Thing In My Kitchen

It’s the most important thing in my kitchen.

It’s not food.

Nor a pot or pan.

Not even a fancy appliance.

Folks who have known me a long time find it funny that I treasure anything in my kitchen.

See, much to the disbelief of my husband and kids, the ones I now cook for on a nightly basis, the ones who enjoy my usually pretty darn edible, if not delicious meals, for most of my life, I couldn’t cook.

There really is no way to over-estimate just how bad I was in the kitchen.

My parents and siblings would allow me only to wash dishes on Thanksgiving.

There was that time I put an old boyfriend in the hospital with my cooking.

Yeah, I’m talking that kind of bad.

Funny thing is, somewhere in that pathetically, awful non-cook’s body, there apparently was a cook wanting to get out.

Albeit, very, very slowly.

Even as a single gal dependent on frozen dinners and canned soup for dinner, I would sometimes get a tiny bit of courage to try.

Like those times I would get hankering for a baked potato.

Screen Shot 2014-11-30 at 3.30.38 PM

Each time the craving arose, I’d go to market, buy a potato, come home and call Cyndi, my best friend since kindergarten.

Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We've shared every major milestone of our lives. I've known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn't born until first grade!

Cyndi, my best friend since the first day of kindergarten. True story! We’ve shared every major milestone of our lives. I’ve known her longer than my own little sister, who wasn’t born until first grade!

“How do you bake a potato again?” I’d ask.

She’d patiently tell me once again how to preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

Meanwhile, scrub the potato, pierce it with a fork and stick it in the oven for an hour.

Sounds simple enough, but no matter how many times I tried, the how of potato never stuck in my brain.

And no matter how many times I would call Cyndi, she’d go over the instructions.


And again.





One year, Cyndi announced, “I’ve got the perfect birthday present for you.”

Days later, a small box arrived in the mail from California.

I opened the box to find tiny green wood frame.  Behind the glass were her hand-written instructions on how to bake a potato.


“Baked Potatoes,” it reads up top with her perfect calligraphy-like handwriting.

She always did have the best penmanship.

“Scrub baking potatoes with a brush,” it begins. “Prick potatoes with a fork. Bake in a 425-degree oven for 60 minutes.”

There’s enough room for her to add, “Add butter, sour cream, chives.”

The frame has hung in my kitchen ever since.

It is my kitchen’s biggest treasure.

My daily reminder that a crucial ingredient for a happy life is friends.

The friend who is patient when you’re clueless.

The friend who was there before you were successful.

The friend who is always there. Even when she’s 2,400 miles away.

There’s been a lot of potatoes, cooking lessons, and a husband and kids that have happened since that frame arrived.

Each time I make bake potatoes, I check the frame and smile at the most important ingredient of all.

There in the bottom right-hand corner, it says “With love, Cyndi.”

I’d love to know who is your baked potato friend. Please share with me below.

Find more uplifting stories on my website,

Please catch my newspaper column each week in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Dayton Daily News and other newspapers across Ohio.




  • Debbie Dunham

    And mine is Kay-my college friend. We met (along with Toni) in 1974 and have been friends ever since. Or, as I like to say, sisters of the heart-the three of us. I look around my house and see things she’s sent me just when I needed a pick-me-up. Our friendship has lasted through broken hearts, marriages, births, miscarriages, deaths, health crises (my husband was very ill a few years ago and she had a stroke last year, Toni became a young widow) and moves (me:Louisiana to Florida to Georgia). Kay knows all my secrets and I know without a doubt that I can write, call, email, or text and she’s there for me with a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, with no judgement. As I put the Christmas pillow she gave me out on the stairs I think: Yeah, these things make her my baked potato friend for sure.

  • Love hearing about Toni and Kay! Here’s to our BP friends, Debbie!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

You Can’t Eat The Best Thing In My Kitchen

by DarynKagan time to read: 2 min
%d bloggers like this: