The Single Male Parent's Cookbook

The Single Male Parents’ Cookbook, is a delightful combination of food and humor, two subjects everyone will enjoy. As a single parent the author raised his children from the time they were four and six, and soon became an expert in the kitchen. As he said, “My cooking must have been good because both are adults now and still alive, which only attests to culinary skills . . . or luck!”

The Single Male Parents’ Cookbook combines recipes with humorous anecdotes of things that did and didn’t work in the kitchen (and in my life!). Joe includes lots of fun cooking ideas along with some that were not so good, and even a few you don’t ever want to try at home! Everything from his Friday Night Special to his Motel Doggy (the electric hotdog). And let’s not forget the ROC (Roaches on Chocolate). Each recipe is followed by a short story about his childhood antics or raising his children. Not everything always ran smoothly. There was that time his boiled eggs blew up all over the ceiling. Oh, and that grease fire. Don’t ever pour water on a grease fire! But they say experience is the best teacher, and they are right. It wasn’t always easy in those years, but he managed to retain his sense of humor. Joe said he once heard George Carlin say that although he’s over sixty, he never stopped being ten. That describes the author perfectly. In fact, he said, “I’ve been ten six times over, and my life is as fun as ever.” His final comments were, “Are you curious about my recipes for rattlesnake, rabbit, squirrel, and armadillo? I think you’d enjoy the rattlesnake. Can you picture me cooking the Roaches on Chocolate (ROC) on Rachel Ray’s show?”

Don’t let the cookbook confuse you. Joe is just a normal type of guy. Well, maybe except for the time he got married at midnight in a jail in Mexico. But that has nothing to do with cooking. Neither does the time he almost got kidnapped in the mountains of Colombia when he met his second wife. He’s just a wild and crazy guy from Texas.


Charge It

November 15, 1958

Dear Teacher,
You asked me to tell you what I learned this month. Well, I learned a whole bunch of neat stuff.

My father said that Dwight D. Eisenhower is the best president we ever elected and Richard Nixon is the only other person in this whole darn country we can trust to continue on a path of honor and integrity. I’m not really sure what “path of honor and integrity” means, but that’s exactly what he said. And last weekend my father bought a brand new Ford Edsel. He said it was an excellent investment.

I think my family should be in the movies. Mom is like Beaver's mom from that TV show, Leave it to Beaver. She's the best. My sister should have been in the Wizard of OZ, because she would have made the best Wicked Witch of the West anybody’s ever seen. Only my sister’s not green, except that she turns a funny color when I do mean things to her. When my brother screams . . . man-o-man, he could be one of those loud sirens in the war movies Dad likes to watch. And speaking of Dad, he reminds me of Zorro's bad brother. My dad keeps his whip tied around his waist at all times. He calls it a belt. But it's a whip. I should know.

My nickname is Tiger, because my parents say when I was little I was always in trouble. Seems funny though, because the times when they call me Tiger, I'm not in trouble and everything is okey dokey. I know I'm in trouble when they yell my name,

"Joe Willis!" That’s when I’m in real serious trouble.

This month I learned a really valuable lesson. I was with my mom when she got some things at the hardware store. At the checkout counter I heard her say, "Charge it." Then she started to walk out but I stopped her. "Mom," I whispered. "You have to go back and pay!"

She smiled at me just like Beaver's mom smiled at him and said, "It's okay. I charged it."

Charged it? What does that mean?

A few days later Mom asked me to ride my bike to the hardware store and get a few things for her. She told me to go up to the counter and say my last name and the words, “charge it.” I was curious about how this charge it stuff worked, so I got the things for my mother plus a model of a spaceship and a comic book for me. At the counter I told the nice man, "Smith, charge it." I waited, excited and scared all at the same time.

He put everything in a paper bag and handed it to me. I hesitated, and then walked from the store.

That night while my parents watched Perry Mason on our new black and white television, all I could think about was how my family didn't have to pay for the things we wanted anymore. I didn’t understand how it worked or why, but all we had to do was say, “charge it.” Wow! This was like a dream come true.

Almost every day after school, I pedaled my bike to that hardware store just as fast as I could. For a whole month I got models, and comic books and candy and gum! And the best part is I didn't have to pay! It didn't seem right to take everything I wanted so I just got a little bit every day. Besides, the basket on my bike wasn't big enough to hold everything.

Well, this weekend I was building one of my new models in the bedroom I had to share with my brother. That's when I heard a blood curdling shriek from my parents—both of them—and the words, "Joe Willis!" I heard Zorro's bad brother snap his whip and didn't even know why he was so angry. Then my mom and dad burst into the bedroom. My brother, in fear, pointed at me saying, "He did it!"

The whip was hanging in the air ready to snap. My dad looked so mad even the real Zorro would have lost against him that day. They demanded to know if I had bought all those toys and candy at the hardware store. My dad reared back, ready to strike. I held my hands up and screamed, "It's okay, it's okay. They didn't cost anything!" I was serious and I’m sure they could tell, because my dad hesitated and said, "What in the world are you talking about?"

In defense of my life I continued, "It didn't cost anything. I just charged it!" My mom saved me that day when she started laughing. My dad dropped the whip. They took me into the other room for a good talking to and that's when I learned that even if you charge it, you still have to pay for it…eventually.

When they were gone my sister came in my room and said, "You're so stupid."

"Oh, yeah? Wait until tonight," I mumbled under my breath.

That night when my sister was taking a hot shower, I took a glass of ice water, went in the bathroom, stood on the toilet, and threw the water over the curtain. Actually, come to think of it, she screams louder than my brother. Justice, I thought. I was laughing so hard and then she screamed, "Daddy, Tiger did it!"

"Joe Willis!" I could hear the snap of the whip. When Zorro’s bad brother stormed into our room, I pointed at my brother and said, “He did it!”


I like grilled cheese sandwiches but I like this one a lot better than the traditional kind. I prefer cheddar cheese but Velveeta will work in a pinch, and I always seem to have it around. When my kids were growing up, the good cheddar cheese seemed to disappear with them as fast as my peanut butter did with me.

Any type of bread will work but I prefer wheat. Use a lot of butter in the skillet and grill the bread until it’s brown and crispy or the cheese oozes out the sides. I use a half can of tuna and a lot of jalapenos. I leave the seeds in, but if you don’t like it too hot take the white seeds out of the peppers. If it’s Saturday it goes good with a beer, but I usually drink a Diet Coke. Then I’ll get out a can of corn or spinach, spice it up a little, and nuke it in the microwave. Makes for a nice little side dish to go with My Grilled Tuna.