This post has been written, but not published, for over a month. The idea has been percolating in my head since the summer. I’ve held onto it because it actually frightens me to suggest what is set out below. I will become accountable to my words. But as time passes by, the longer I wait, the more I feel an urgency to make this happen…
A few years ago, John-Mark went away for a couple weeks. I had a friend over to cook for me because – for fear of repeating myself – I don’t. When this friend asked for items to aid with the preparation of the meal, like oven mitts, baking sheets, or serving dishes, I was at a loss to find them. Did we even own any? When she used the stove top, it emitted a noxious odor from something that had spilled over from a previous meal from who knows how long ago. When I went to set the table, I was embarrassed to see that our cutlery drawer was unorganized and full of crumbs, as if someone buttered their toast directly over it, for weeks. How had I not seen that before? My excuse for all these things, which I repeated to my gracious friend ad nauseum that evening, “This is a man’s kitchen.”
It’s true, J-M owns this space in our home. He is the one who prepares all the meals. He is the one who stocks and organizes the kitchen with groceries, pots, pans, dishware and utensils. I am the one who lets him. I’ve been happy to keep it as a man’s kitchen for the past 15 years, really I have, except for a recent change in me.
Perhaps it’s because I’ve been leading women’s ministry, bonding with my gender. There is an activity women do that I feel excluded from. To be fair, it’s an activity I’ve excluded myself from. But I’ve seen it bring light to a woman’s eyes when she participates in it, as if it’s a long-standing ritual, a secret, a rite of passage.
That activity is swapping recipes.
When I sincerely compliment another woman on a tasty dish she has prepared, I then find myself blocking out her response, “It’s so easy, you just…” I don’t understand why women verbally recite ingredients and oven temperatures when a simple “Glad you like it!” would do.
When my friends do find out that I’m not paying attention – because I don’t cook and have no care or need to know that I can substitute maple syrup for sugar (some stuff gets through) or the difference between a tablespoon or a teaspoon (some stuff doesn’t) – they respond by offering to teach me how to cook. “One of these days I’m going to show you how to prepare [fill in the blank], it’s so easy!” By their reaction, one would imagine that I’m missing out. I should know this and by knowing it, maybe I’d do it. Up till now, I’ve flat out refused all offers.
My friend Lisa suggests that those who insist on teaching me are jealous of my freedom. Plausible theory.
No, I haven’t wanted to learn… till now.
Maybe it’s because I’m turning 39 soon. It will be my last year in my 30s and there are certain survival skills one will want to have mastered by 40. In my 20s, my not cooking was a source of pride – J-M and I were equal opportunity in the kitchen, an example for others even! When I moved to Ghana, a culture where women pride themselves in their domestic abilities, for the first time I felt shame because of my inability.
But there’s something more. Is it just my imagination, or do some women get joy out of cooking or baking? Some proudly profess their delight in preparing meals. Even those same women who say they would prefer my circumstances, wishing they had some to do it all for them, still swap recipes with each other. I’ve watched you do it!
Yes, I’m so curious about what others spend time doing, take pride in, that it’s over-riding any disdain I might have for it. I need to find out once and for all what this is all about.
I’m calling this deliberate delve into the unknown OPERATION: RECIPE SWAP and here’s how it’s going to work.
For the next year, twice a month, I am going to schedule a lesson with a friend who gets joy out of cooking or baking. As my teacher, you are going to demonstrate for me how to cook /bake your favourite recipe in your kitchen. You will give me permission to record the session and interview you while the lesson is happening, so that I can get greater understanding of how you maneuver in your space and where and how you find pleasure in what you’re doing. I will then take you recipe home and try it on my family on my own. I will write about my experience along the way and post it on the blog.
My hope is that in the end I’ll have gained insight into the lives of my female friends and your kitchens, and in the process draw out some latent desire in me, or at least understand why I’ve been avoiding it all these years.
So now, today, this thing here, is my chance to make a change. This is my first submission, a peace offering, and a step into your world. This is what I have to offer you:
It’s so easy!
Friends, if you have ever said to me that you’re going to teach me how to cook/bake, NOW is your chance. THIS is not just my year, it’s yours too. I need your help! Please show me the way. Please comment or e-mail me if you would like to participate in this endeavour by teaching me your favourite recipe and sharing your joy.