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The Secret Ingredient
A Reading Comprehension Passage by Common Core Texts

Grandma’s cooking was famous throughout the neighborhood. My mother always told me that she put a secret ingredient in every one of her dishes. That secret ingredient, I assumed, must be the reason why her food was so delicious. So naturally, when one summer morning Grandma invited me into the kitchen to help with the tomato sauce, I jumped at the chance.

Grandma immediately put me to work chopping onions. At first, the pieces of onion came out uneven. Some were long and thin, others short and thick.

“You must slow down, Emma,” Grandma said. “Look at what you’re doing while you chop. We have all the time in the world!”

I slowed down. But while I worked, I kept one eye on Grandma. I suspected that she might sneak the secret ingredient in while I was distracted.

After the chopping, we began to root through the box of fresh tomatoes. Grandma selected each tomato with care. She checked it over for black spots. She pressed it and poked it to check its ripeness. She even went so far as to hold one under my nose.

“Smell it, Emma! There’s nothing like the smell of fresh tomatoes. Remember, we don’t cook to eat. We cook to cook: to smell the tomatoes, to rub the basil between our fingertips, to watch the sauce bubble!”

Three hours later, the sauce bubbled merrily away. I thought about Grandma’s words as I slowly and carefully stirred. I’d watched her every move, and she had never added that unexpected item that my mother had hinted at. Still, I thought to myself, I’d discovered her secret ingredient anyhow.


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