I’m turning 40 in less than a month.
One of the things I’ve noticed people my age like to do is make statements about who we are. How we’re this type of person and not that type. I think it’s so that we only do the things we want to and don’t get roped into (any more) the things we don’t want to do. It’s a right at this age. And I’m trying it on for size here in this post.
So let me tell you that I am a starter.
I start things. I like to use words like “envision,” “imagine,” and “what if.” I’ve started businesses and ministry and small groups and book clubs and like 10 different blogs. I start things because I have ideas. And how will these idea come to life without starting something with them?
Sometimes being a starter can look like being a quitter because you may have to leave one or some things behind to start other things. I’ve been feeling this way, certainly in the past few months, since Operation Recipe Swap has come to a premature end, whether I publicly admitted it or not. I’ve had to make time-purges when I started a full-time job in the summer. There’s just no extra time to learn to cook, never mind blog about it.
But truth be told, I think I quit before I started my new job and it was just handy to have a great excuse.
I’d had a brilliant lesson in the spring with my friend Chelsea, who had shown me how to cook the world’s best steak and demystified mashed potatoes and steamed asparagus. I sat on her recipes for a while, attempting to write about our lovely rainy afternoon together. But I was stuck on this point: I don’t want to do this any more.
My feelings were linked to an experience that happened at Easter, a week or so before my lesson with Chelsea, which had the effect of rapidly deflating my will to continue.
Let me explain. I’d come up against some friction with John-Mark in the early stages of Operation Recipe Swap, but for the most part he was really great at saying, yes, carry out your cute little experiment in my kitchen. He gave me permission to go play. So I did.
From time to time I’d check in with him. “Are you OK with my reorganizing the spice drawer?” “Do you mind that I made this our ‘baking cupboard?'” His “encouragement” took on an if-you-must quality to it.
But there came a boiling point for our culinary friction. It happened over the preparation of Easter dinner.
J-M and my mom have the cutest tradition of making the family holiday meals together when we host everyone at our house. But this time I volunteered to make the meal. I’d put what I learned from the previous six month to the test. I would cook for my family. I’d do the roast beef and potatoes I’d made on my birthday with all the fixin’s, gravy just like Deb makes, and even tapis a la Tanya! I would make enough to serve 19 of us. It was going to be FABULOUS. I laid out the ingredients the night before.
The next morning, I woke up to find J-M putting the roast in the oven, seasoned and all (and not with the spices I’d chosen). “I thought it would be a help to you,” he answered my expression of shock.
This is what I heard.
I know that some of you ladies reading this blog have zero sympathy right now. That a husband who cooks meals for you – especially Easter dinner – is a dream come true, right?
That’s the clincher! I wanted to be offended. In the spirit of Operation Recipe Swap, I wanted to be incensed! But I was RELIEVED. It is a dream for one’s husband to cook every meal.
That’s when I had to take a good hard look at the fact that I might be forcing myself to continue this experiment. For what, fodder for the blog? Bad idea if so, because this gets old pretty quick.
Did I truly want to stir the pot and make changes to a system that has been working perfectly well in our home? I had to go back to the impetus for starting this experiment.
I DID want/need to learn to cook – I was missing out on a life skill – and I wanted to learn more it from my friends who delight in it – the best way for it to sink in, I’d hoped. I thought my discovery might be a discovery for us all.
Six months of lessons meant that I, indeed, learned the survival skill! I can safely say that I could keep myself and my family alive. If I needed to.
- Beyond boiling, I know almost all the ways to cook an egg
- I can mash and roast potatoes
- I no longer feel squeamish around raw meat
- Cutting onions make you cry, there’s no way around it
- I can make lumpless gravy
- I get the deal with the baking at Christmas
- My daughter asked me just today if I would make beef barley stew again and I said yes.
I can’t unlearn these things.
Being in my friends’ kitchens was the best part. I loved learning about their philosophies about cooking or baking and seeing simple ingredients come to life in mouth-watering dishes. Their creativity opened up my eyes to a whole new world. I was fascinated by how every kitchen is different, what with tupperware cupboards, spice drawers, pots and pans “solutions,” junk drawers… This I will miss. But then again it doesn’t have to be a project to exchange recipes or take an interest in how someone makes a to-die-for pie (which Trish Taylor taught me and I’m hoping to bake for Thanksgiving!). I can participate in an idea without starting a campaign, imagine that.
I have obtained enough vocab and know-how to join the cooking community and ACTUALLY swap recipes! That in and of itself is huge and I’m owning it, OK?
So thank you friends who taught and those who offered to teach. I love you for trying. I love you for being vulnerable by opening your cupboards and drawers and (sometimes) letting me cook in your kitchens. I love you for letting me record our conversations. And you must love me too because I am now sitting on potential blackmail material from some of you. (It’s amazing the secrets that are told in kitchens!)
So I will let you know that I’m not a cook, but I can cook. I’m not a baker, but I can bake. I’m really a starter, and I’ll start by giving J-M his kitchen back. P.S. J-M posted this on my Facebook wall recently. I think it’s a not-so-subtle message that he’s on board with the new plan.
P.P.S. The Operation Recipe Swap Group continues on Facebook. I chime in from time to time with some good stuff, no kidding!