On one of my worst days ever, I was hunched over a stove in home economics class trying desperately to save a white sauce that smelled like a campfire. Twice a week, Miss Patterson tried to teach us to cook as if our lives depended on it. And in her world, they did. “Ladies, she would intone, an elegant meal served to your husband’s employer could gain him an advancement — and a finer life for you.” At 13, we couldn’t imagine husbands. Nor did we completely trust Miss Patterson’s guidance on their menu choices – since she was, after all a “Miss.” But a year of chopping, stirring and rolling out gave us the skills to feed ourselves, and eventually our families, quickly and well, as we became the professionals Miss Patterson expected we would marry.