Tanya is another friend with whom I divulged my plan for Operation: Recipe Swap before it became a reality. She had a cautious response, asking me, as a good friend would, my motivations for doing this. I explained to her, like I’d explained to others, that (a) this was a survival skill one really should have, but more than that, (b) I want to connect with all those women who exchange recipes and food ideas. Especially because I lead women’s ministry, I want to understand the joy women seem to get from sharing their kitchen ideas.
“As long as you’re not doing it to prove anything,” she said. “It doesn’t make you any less of a woman because you can’t cook, you know.”
I appreciated her concern, but waved it away. No, I wasn’t trying to prove anything!
But if I’m honest, I will tell you there have been times in my life where I did feel that I was less of a woman because I didn’t know how to cook. Certainly when we lived in Ghana. It was a disgrace for a woman not to cook competently (be it in the kitchen or over a charcoal fire). How much more of a shame that my husband should cook for me! But even here in Canada, that same view is a surprisingly common one, especially for the generation that precedes us, which tends to trickle down. There have been times where I have been openly chided by people who do not condone our familial set up; that my husband makes every meal, not just for himself, but for the family too.
My reaction (or rather, pro-action) has been to make it a subtle bragging point. A friend suggested that perhaps I was fostering a persona, when I brought a tub of jujubes to a church potluck dinner. Many times I have felt like I had a duty to break down the constrictions for those of us who felt cramped by a traditional set-up. I was the flag-bearer for alternative house chore arrangements in a marriage. I flaunted my freedom, but was sure to include the cost of such freedom – I always do the dishes after, a fair trade!
But perhaps those with the loudest voice are the most fearful. Did I flaunt my non-culinary ways because I felt “less than?” A great defence is a good offence! Maybe there was something to Tanya’s challenge.
I would still assure her, and you, that proving myself has never been my primary motivation. In fact, it’s by carrying out this experiment that I’ve uncovered some ideas I had about my cooking (in)abilities. I’ve then moved into conquering mode, overcoming this piece that makes me feel “less than a woman.” How strange to use a knife poorly! What should be a simple tool in my hands seems awkward and clumsy. Ask me to hold a pen and I’m pro. And the pen, mightier!
Tanya is right. If my motivation is ever because I want to live up to someone else’s ideal, this is a bad plan. Even if I’m just now unpacking that, I have time to recalibrate and return to the original idea: to do this because I’m curious to try, to know more about the friends I love, to be creative and have fun.
Now Tanya is a bona fide foodie. So once she’d cleared up my intentions, she was all over it and gladly offered her expertise. Yesterday I spent the afternoon with her learning all about tapas, which is a fancy (Spanish) name for appetizers! She’s so sophisticated like that! I am very glad I had this lesson six months after starting this experiment and after realigning my motives because I entered a whole new, crazy world last night which could have turned this experiment on its head… More to come on that.
As I arrived at her house for my lesson, I was greeted by her lovely sister, Mary-Elise who was just leaving after spending some March Break time with Tan and fam. I wished she could have stayed for the fun. We had a little chit-chat before she went, though, and Mary-Elise asked about our afternoon plans.
“What is this sudden interest in cooking? You told me you never had a desire to learn,” said Mary-Elsie.
“Well, to make a long story short, partly because, like when J-M got hurt and people were sending us meals because I can’t cook, I realized it’s an important survival skill to have. Another is the sorority of recipe-swapping that I miss out on and, as a women’s ministry leader, I wish to explore. There are a whole bunch of reasons that have actually been unwrapped in the process of learning from others…”
Mary-Elsie responded with a laugh, “I always thought you were really cool because you didn’t cook.”
And so I sit between the termini of cool and competent and tell myself, I’m Ay-Oh-Kay with it.