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.

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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?

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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.

Plus:

  • 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!

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Bite-sized wisdom – Part IV

We covered so much in this lesson, there are so many parts, I’ve had to brush up on my Roman numerals. Any more and I’d be forced to break out the Roman Numeral Converter.

Appetizers are a food meant for celebration. They are built for fun. They come bite-sized so you don’t have to think about calories or portions, should you or shouldn’t you, you just think about that taste sensation that enters you mouth and makes you smile. Yes, appie rhymes with happy.

Tanya makes appetizers most often for date nights with her husband, Chris. It’s a lighter late-night fare, when you get the kids fed and put to bed, you don’t want a whole heavy dinner, so appetizers are perfect. And you can feed them to each other. She didn’t say that part, but it’s true. Continue reading

Bite-sized Wisdom – Part III

To know Tanya is to love Tanya.

Tanya has that wonderful luminescent quality of brightening every space she enters. The mood changes for the better when Tanya walks into a room. Everyone wants to be around her; everyone wants to catch some of her vivacity for themselves.

I believe she has this effect because she genuinely loves people. And she often employs this quality by hosting fabulous parties and get-togethers. I have been the beneficiary of her hospitality many times and it’s always the best time. Whether it’s one of her famous Christmas dinner parties or an informal games night, you always leave Tanya’s home feeling merry. Part of it is that no matter what the occasion, Tanya has a casual way about her that puts you at ease. She loves to celebrate and that, invariably, requires the components of food and friendship. Continue reading

Operation: Recipe Swap Status Update

It may seem like my Operation: Recipe Swap (herein “ORS”) posts have been lagging.  This is true.  I have many excusesreasons.  This  hierarchy of concerns has been on my mind, showed up in my shoulders and possibly affected my immune system.  How have I dealt with these priorities, the grandest of which is a half-finished Wesleyan theology paper due at the end of the month?  I’ve effectively procrastinated myself down to the lowest determinant on my TO DO list.

I find myself polishing my mirrors and plucking my eyebrows a lot lately in order to avoid finishing the things of utmost importance.   This means that hardly anything of intermediate value gets attended to.  But I’m working my way up! My windows are so clean, I am now forced to blog. I’ll finish the paper… tomorrow. Continue reading

Going Old-School, Heirloom Spaghetti Sauce

My friend Christa said she would be thrilled to teach me a recipe and how about the whole family come over on a Sunday afternoon!  The girls can cook while the boys watch football.  Which is like blowing off the dust on the sexology file,  How Men and Women Should Spend their Sundays.   Hey, why not?  This could be *retro fun!

For those of you who know Christa, you probably think of her as a gentle soul, calm and patient, the perfect temperament for teaching a novice to cook.  As I’ve gotten to know Christa, however, what others might mistake for a shy demeanor is actually really, really good listening skills.  I was looking forward to being in her company and listening to her this time.  This Sunday, the roles would be reversed in more ways than one! 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