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L.A. O'Neil : Meeting Miranda

Meeting Miranda

Satiating physical and creative hunger.

By L.A. O'Neil

When I met Miranda, she was 14 years old. Her hair was long and dirty blonde — it's what my mother used to call 'dishwater' blonde. Or bottle blonde. Either way you look at it, hair that color didn't look so hot. She was tall — much taller than I — and as a freshman in high school, she towered over me. But that's not saying much since I'm only about five feet four.

Miranda wanted to be a singer. For about the first four months of her voice lessons, I could barely hear her because she was so shy — for such an imposing height, I thought it was strange that she had no self confidence and that she didn't want anybody to look at her. It wasn't until a year or so into our lessons that I found out she loved to cook, that she glued herself to the TV watching Emeril, and that she wanted to try some of those recipes. The only problem was her parents never kept in food in the icebox and her little sister went to school with two pieces of bread for lunch. Miranda would come to her lessons looking pale, her skin without luster. She looked tired and worn out — nothing like a fourteen-year-old girl should look.

Then I figured it out. Miranda was hungry.

I knew I would be taking a risk, but I had to take matters into my own hands. Over the weeks, we started to talk about how much we both like to cook, and I invited her over to my house to give her the opportunity to cook something fabulous, and have the pleasure of sitting down and eating her creation. I knew she didn't have very much experience with ingredients — I think she tried substituting cornmeal for flour once, and she couldn't figure out why the bread didn't rise. But God love her. She wasn't going to let a little thing like having no ingredients stop her.

We made spanakopita and chocolate chip cookies. Perhaps not the wisest choice for a first cooking lesson, but they sure were good! We took our time, and including all of the attitude adjustments that come with working with phyllo dough, we blew the better part of an entire Saturday afternoon cooking, talking and eating. I knew she was embarrassed by her 'situation,' and she didn't want to tell me that she was hungry. She had a great appetite!

Since that Saturday in what turned out to be a long, cold winter, I always made sure I had cocktail peanuts or some sort of snack for her when she came to her lesson and, when I started teaching out of my home, my husband or I made certain something tasty was simmering on the stove every Tuesday about 4:00. We wanted her to know what it's like to walk in the door and take comfort by the smell of oatmeal cookies fresh out of the oven, or a Crockpot filled with to-die-for chili. Before too long, she knew that she could come to my house and have something to eat, talk to me about anything that was on her mind, and study to be the best singer she could possibly be.

That was five years ago.

Now she's a freshman in college. She called me the other day, her voice brimming with excitement, because she had just garnered her first operatic role! She's living a life that she never thought she would have — a life of entertaining audiences with her glorious voice, and a life of knowing what it's like to have a full tummy.

We still munch on chocolate chip cookies. And the dough.

© 2010 L.A. O'Neil. All rights reserved.

Article written by L.A. O'Neill for April Jones, who first discovered green smoothies at the recommendation of a close friend and it has developed into a fun hobby teaching others how to get started. More »