One does not simply pretend Operation Recipe Swap never happened

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.

Gordon-Ramsay-Angry-Kitchen-YOUR-COOKING-IS-BAD Before we psycho-analyze how I deal with (perceived) criticism. I figured out I was over-reacting internally before anyone else did, thankyouverymuch.

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.

41inu 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
  • 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.Funny Family Ecard: Why yes, I've discovered the JOY of cooking. It's when my husband does it. 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.

Gender Rolls

P.P.S. The Operation Recipe Swap Group continues on Facebook. I chime in from time to time with some good stuff, no kidding!

Made to Crave, best served with friends

If you are a Facebook friend or have been sharing tweets with me lately, you’ll know that I’ve been committed to studying and leading our women’s group through Lysa TerKeurst‘s book,  Made to Crave.  I read this book, about “satisfying your deepest desires with God, not food,” at the recommendation of my sister-in-law, at a time when we both wanted to break the pull that chips and chocolate and second helpings had on us.

But here’s a secret: sometimes when I’m reading a good book, I assent in private and say, “This is good stuff!” only to miss out on the impact because I choose not to put  it in practice.  I sat on the truths of this book for almost a year before realizing that I needed to get some girlfriends on task with me and be accountable to doing this.   And shhh… sometimes I think this is the only reason why I lead the women’s ministry, to set up my own accountability system.  And for such a study as this, where the truth shows up visibly, above the knees and below the shoulders! Continue reading

The Chili that Keeps on Giving – Part II

Kim and I worked together to complete the chili.  One of us would stir while the other one chopped and vice versa.  “How am I going to be able to make this without Kim?” I wondered.

Plus Kim has some really decent kitchen tools.  In particular, sharp knives, whimsical slicers, melon ballers, twisty turny things, and fancy cutlery.  She said everything tastes better with her musical fork.  I do not own any musical forks, so that’s not really fair that all her meals taste better than mine. Continue reading

The Chili that Keeps on Giving – Part I

The Instructor

On Thursday, I had my third cooking lesson, the first by a non-relative, my friend Kimberly Furtney.  Or, as she is known to me and my family, Kimber, K-Furt, The Furts or, that time when she went to Germany, Kimberlin Strudel. For the purposes of this article and your ease of reference, I will refer to her simply as Kim.

Kim is a piece of sunshine in the life of my family.  She has such a loving, giving spirit and from the time we met, she has done so much in the way of brightening up our lives.  She is known especially to be a cheerleader, send notes of encouragement, and give treat-y gifts… like the time when I was sick with a cold and she brought over a care package: movie, home-made muffins, lozenges and ginger ale.

This is Kim and me at the Sony Theatre in Toronto for the “So You Think You Can Dance” Live Tour. She treated me for my birthday. Continue reading

Fasting and praying – Day 21 and 24

Remember Day Two?  That was only 22 days ago!  And just a week ago, it was Day 17 and now it’s Day 24!  And I’ve been trying to post this update since Day 21, but WordPress has been a bit wonky… so here we find ourselves three more days into the future which is now the present, which will be in the past shortly.

The pace of time will always, always amaze me.  Especially since I’ve discovered that it speeds up the older you get.  I’m now one of the annoying ones who tells mothers of young ones to ENJOY. EVERY. MINUTE.  I write “Time flies!” consistently on birthday cards because I’m actually in shock that you are one year older, and that I’ve had to buy you another gift already?  I just bought you one.

I’m more than halfway through this fast and there are some interesting developments worth mentioning.

I may be making people feel uncomfortable.  Just yesterday (written on Day 21) my family stopped in at my in-laws for dinner after a full afternoon at the beach.  They enjoyed a lovely breakfast-for-supper meal and although the bacon literally called me by my full name – LORELI MAE COCKRAM nee GALBRAITH – when I passed it along the table, I resisted.  During the meal, I tried to bring up interesting topics for conversation and drank a heckuvalot, taking small sips and often, to make myself look busy while the rest of the family ate.  On the way home I asked how awkward was it for them to be sitting with me at the table .  J-M said, “Not at all,” at the exact same time Mallory said, “Very.”  Even in our little home with just the three of them plus me, Mallory says she feels bad and has difficulty enjoying her meal when I’m not eating.   J-M says, “No guilt here.”

I may accidentally make you feel judged.  My father-in-law asked me why I was fasting (J-M warned him earlier that I wouldn’t be eating) and I said something lame like, “I’m listening to God.”  I don’t think that I insulted him particularly, but I thought, you know, someone could think that I am saying THIS is the way to listen to God and if they’re not fasting, they’re not listening.  It is a way, but not the only way.  This is why I should be putting oil in my hair and washing my face each day, so there is no guilt for those who are not fasting.

It’s inevitable that you will find out I’m fasting even if you don’t read this blog.  It’s just that almost every single function one can do with a friend involves eating of some sort.  Hangouts?  Chips.  Movie? Popcorn.  Summer?  BBQ.  Church?  Potluck.  And because you’re my friend, you will ask me why I keep tidying the place and going to the washroom instead of eating and I will admit that I’m fasting and then I’ll tell you, shhh, I’m listening to God.  And you’ll tell me you thought I’d lost weight.  And I’ll tell you it’s a side effect of fasting.  At which point the conversation may digress to bathing suit season.

I’m not good at explaining the progress of my fast.  That’s because I don’t know. Once friends find out I’m fasting, they ask “How’s it going?” and I’ve been wondering, what’s the best way to respond?  I can easily take 10+ minutes to explain how it’s going, but are they just looking for “1/2 way there!” or “nothing yet!”  Because I’m ashamed to say, I’ve said both those things, more than once, yesterday.

Here’s what I can tell you.  God is speaking to me in powerful ways through my friends. They’re “iron friends” as my iron friend, Diane, calls them.  That’s from Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”  These iron friends keep me accountable by raising an eyebrow when I’m looking for a snack after 2 p.m. or checking in on how I’m doing when I don’t blog for a few days. They also make mention of the wonderful ways God is working in my life, ways I don’t always recognize.  I am really feeling the love of God through them.  Through prayers, phone calls, Facebook messages, tea dates or short notes, I’m hearing from them that I’m on the right track, even when I don’t have an answer.

Day 24 Update – Hosted our Small Group at our home tonight.  It was a BBQ/potluck – double-whammy.  I had every intention not to eat, but it goes against what I believe about being a hostess – enjoying a meal together is one of the best ways to deep fellowship.  So it may just be me and Mallory who feel uncomfortable about the fast…  Needless to say, Friday I’ll go supper-less and play a slightly sluggish game of ball.

Thanks, iron friends, for checking in!