I may not remember the name of my junior high home economics teacher from Windom High School, but I am pretty sure she will remember mine. 

At one point during my year in home economics, I didn’t know there was a difference between salt and sugar when cooking—I mean both are white right? When someone had the sugar on the other side of the room I used some salt as a substitute, since they looked very similar.

By the end of the class period it was pretty obvious my cookies were a disaster. As part of the class we had to make enough cookies to give each student one, while also providing our teacher a cookie to taste test herself. It was kind of a public shaming for people like me who struggled to even butter toast correctly. 

As she got to my cookie, she immediately spit it out and asked what I did. I told her I used that white stuff to make the cookies and followed the directions.

I’ll never forget the snideness in her tone when she asked “did you by chance use salt instead of sugar?”

I could only muster out a response of, “yeah but what is the difference they look the same don’t they?”

She then turned to me and reminded the entire class to taste the food they cook before they give it to other people. She instructed the class to immediately throw my cookies in the garbage. She proceeded to ask me why I didn’t try the cookies myself, before I gave them to her.

“I did try them,” I replied. “I took one bite and they were terrible so I threw it away.”

The look of shock on her face was priceless. Needless to say I did not do good in home economics and it wasn’t until I got to college and lived with a person who thought he was a professional chef (this was usually at 2 in the morning), when I finally learned how to make a hamburger that wasn’t bleeding, or so hard it was like a hockey puck. 

I also learned an important science experiment during this time, which is, if you leave a pot of water boiling all night, when you get up in the morning the water will be gone and the pan will be empty. 

That leads me to this point. Schools from across the country have had to eliminate home economics classes due to budget constraints and an inability to find teachers for the classes. 

While Henning hasn’t had a home economics teacher in a number of years, they do offer students the chance to learn real life skills in Eli Hill’s home survival classes. The classes teach students things like how to change a tire, how to change their oil, how to insulate a house or even things as basic as how to change blinker fluid (and if you think a vehicle has blinker fluid you should probably sign up for his class—immediately).

Chad Koenen, Henning Happenings

You see, as important as it is to learn things from a book, it is also important for students to learn how to do things on their own so they won’t need to call their parents until they are 35. 

After all, you don’t want to be in your 20s before you finally learn how to make pancakes—no joke I didn’t know how to make pancakes from a mix until my last year of college. Now you may see why my kids still want to sign me up for the TV show “Worst Cooks in America.” If they had only seen me before.

Thanks to volunteers

After most of our summer events were canceled last year due to COVID-19, our community has been abuzz over the past few weeks with town festivals around just about every corner. You forget sometimes how much there is to do in our area during the summer months, but these events that we enjoy don’t come without the help and work of volunteers across each of our communities.

Oftentimes we take for granted the work of these people, who take time out of their work day to make phone calls, organize events and coordinate schedules to make even the simplest things go off without a hitch. Whether that be making sure the parade line up is set, the bounce houses are on order, or even that the food is ordered for the food stand. Without the work of these volunteers our town celebrations wouldn’t be a reality.

With less and less people willing to contribute to making these events a success, the planning of these events continue to fall on a dwindling number of people who are expected to complete their work during the day, while also making sure the community can have a celebration of its own.

Unfortunately, all-too-often the work of these volunteers are cut down after the fact by people who think they could do a better job, even though they are unwilling or don’t want to be a part of the planning, organizing and working at the events themselves. 

So for all of the volunteers for events like the Henning Festival, OtterFest, Ottertail Community Auction, fly-in breakfast, Watermelon Day, Deer Trails Day, the Landmark Center Corn Feed, Lions Steak Fry, bike rodeo and many more, thank you. Your work is appreciated and we know that without your dedication our summer would be a little more boring and unsafe. If you don’t believe me just look back to last year to see how much fun you had.