“If you can read, you can cook.”
My mother always said this whenever I would express any culinary trepidation. I’m not sure if it was disinterest or fear that kept me out of the kitchen, but I would usually nod my head and then disappear with a book, only turning up again when it was time to dress the salad.
Once my grandmother was about to prepare a turkey. She asked me, “Now, if you came home to this, what would you do?” I wasn’t trying to be funny when I replied, “Um, I’d put it back in the fridge.” My concerns about potential food poisoning far outshone my awareness that being involved in the process of cooking a turkey was an option I’d ever pursue.
Now I am married with a house of my own and I am fortunate enough to have a man around who has a way with poultry. I manage to produce a fair number of rather tasty meals (still avoiding having to touch raw meat whenever possible), but there is still a great divide between me and those who actually feel bliss at the other end of a spatula. For years, I had a picture of a redhead in a tiara with the caption “Domestically Disabled” prominently displayed on the refrigerator. A lot of the time, I still feel that way, but the diva excuse doesn’t cut it when you aspire to equality in a marriage and a home that you can be proud of.
To a certain degree, my mom is right: there is no reason to mystify the preparation of food. I have never been such an aloof artistic type that I had no interest in nourishing myself or setting a welcoming table for those I love. Still, it’s not always that easy: I am a pretty skilled reader, but it is amazing how, um, uniquely I can execute a recipe when I try to translate words into action.
There was the time we enjoyed a lovely gazpacho while I listed the five or six ingredients I had neglected to add, I don’t know how many dishes I have served only to exclaim “I forgot the spices!” And then there was last night when I got ready to prepare the fabulous Gluten Free Goddess‘s Mediterranean Chicken Soup (Husband kindly did his magic on the foul while I did the rest). How did I make a grocery list based on a recipe without ever noticing that it was supposed to take five to six HOURS in a crock pot? I wanted to have dinner ready by halftime – I was definitely not part of the slow cook movement. Luckily, though I have no idea how it was supposed to taste, it filled my woefully small soup pot and simmered little while and was actually wonderfully satisfying even on a condensed time line.
I share my culinary misadventures because it has helped me to realize that it is still possible to leave your comfort zone, veer off course dramatically, and still reap some rewards. For me, spending time at the stove is to dabble in someone else’s art, a territory that welcomes me only grudgingly and offers the rewards of a full belly rather than true self expression.
Still, last night was one of those times when I began to understand why those divinely inspired kitchen witches love to create with food. Mixing and tasting and knowing that I was just making it all up as I went along… There was a sense of connection to the vegetables and spices and wonder at the alchemy of making a meal for the person I love.
I may be a writer who reaches out to the world with language and thought, but it is sweetly liberating to learn that creative acts of any form are waiting for me to find them, urging me to look at the world anew.