Time was, my mother judged people by the dessert they brought to a potluck.

People who brought cupcakes made from a mix thinking they could pass them off as homemade were only fooling themselves. Trust me. My mother knew. Just like she knew without tasting it if a cookie had been baked with off-brand shortening rather than Crisco.

She rated your love for your family accordingly. On the potluck dessert hierarchy, those who contributed Rice Krispies treats were just one step up from those who transferred store-bought cookies to a paper plate. Bring a box of Twinkies and the message was clear: you’re just here because you heard someone would be grilling pork steaks.

My mother never said this out loud. With her poker-faced glance around the dessert table, she didn’t have to. She, of course, baked everything from scratch.

Before you judge her and her white-flour privilege, keep in mind she was much more impressed by a good meringue than a designer handbag. 

My point is, parents can pass along their prejudices to their children. I still judge people who make apple pie with pre-sliced apples from a can. I’m not proud of it.

That is how life works, but we are not helpless. For example, a parent may teach you to spurn cake mixes. Then one day, you’re shopping for her favorite Swans Down cake flour and you see it —  a Pillsbury cake mix sale. So you buy one. With trepidation, you bake it. It’s not bad. Especially when you add the coordinating ready-made Pillsbury icing.

Then it hits you — your mother lied to you. Brownies from a box can be delicious. And those people who brought Rice Krispies treats to the potluck? They weren’t lazy. Maybe their kids LIKE Rice Krispies treats. As for Twinkies, well, my mother was right about them. They are mutant cake forms.

Still, I felt misled. So you know what I did? I passive-aggressively baked her a box cake for her next birthday. My mother didn’t say a word, but she knew. It was a pivotal moment in our relationship.

Soon, I was also forgoing her brownie recipe, which involved a double boiler and unsweetened chocolate squares. With the possible exception of carrot cake and several types of cookies, I have never looked back. 

And it opened up a whole new world. Store-bought baked goods can be just fine. In fact, some people SHOULD buy, rather than bake, cookies ... if you know what I mean.

And thus, each generation moves forward. I have tried to raise my children to be more open-minded, dessert-wise.

We children teach our parents, too. When cleaning out my mother’s kitchen a few years ago, I found a box cake mix. My point is, times change. People change. We’re supposed to.

If it can happen in my mother’s cupboard, it can happen anywhere. All is not lost.