For 28 years, Linda James taught home economics (Family and Consumer Science) at Diamond (Mo.) High School. Photo by Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller.
Photo by Kaylea M. Hutson-Miller

Linda James began cooking as a young 4-H member

DIAMOND, MO. – For 28 years, Linda James taught home economics (Family and Consumer Science) at Diamond (Mo.) High School.

Linda, the oldest of nine, said she’s sure she cooked with her mom growing up. But her first real memories of learning to cook with her 4-H cooking leader.

A member of Jones Creek 4-H, one of the oldest clubs in Newton County, Linda said Mary Greninger and her daughter, Marilyn, a junior leader, taught her to make everything from lemonade, biscuits and snickerdoodles. 

Later, as a home ec teacher, Linda would teach her students to make similar things – including the Biscuits Supreme from the ever popular Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.

“I taught them all how to make biscuits and gravy, which is a standard around here,” Linda said. “I also taught them how to make things like pizza biscuits – flattening biscuits and using pizza toppings, and gooey bars. The daily nutrition part was also important to me.”

Teaching students to cook, she jokes, sometimes included some funny moments. She recalls a time when students were learning to make chocolate cupcakes with a cream cheese mixture. 

While the recipe called for a single spoonful, one group added quite a bit more. James said it made the cupcakes so gooey, the students couldn’t get the cupcakes out of the pan. She said it took more than a week of soaking to get all of the cupcake remnants out of the pan.

“I taught them to follow the recipes the way it was written, and why they couldn’t just change things,” Linda said.

Beyond teaching school children, Linda taught her children and grandchildren to cook as well. 

She’s even passed on some of the baking duties. During Christmas, Linda’s daughter, Julie Humphrey, now makes all of the cookies. 

Linda said her favorite thing to make on a regular basis is soup or stew. One family favorite is her hamburger vegetable soup, which can be made on the stove or in a crock pot.

Learning to cook is still important, James said, because it provides a person with a creative outlet. 

“It also saves money vs. eating out, and I think it gives you a sense of self worth,” she said, “especially if you make it for somebody else and they like it too.”


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