The (not quite) Joy of Cooking

I just love food. For better or for worse, I have never been someone who is disinterested in eating.

But my various misadventures in the kitchen sometimes leave me feeling glum and kind of deterred. Whenever the subject of cooking comes up if we’re having dinner with a couple or family, I feel like I grill (pun intended) whoever the respective chef is in the family about what they like to make, what recipes are good, and how they learned to cook. Especially how they learned to cook.

Often I’ll hear from friends, “Oh yeah, I didn’t know how to cook until I got married,” and then the story turns into something about how they became fantastic and can whip up souffles upside down because they watched the Food Network or something like that. Well, I’ve been married for about 6 years now, and I watch the Food Network whenever I go to the dentist, and I have to say that I still struggle in the kitchen department.

I think that I get intimidated by recipes, or I choose things that are too ambitious for a beginner. I love when a cookbook explains what a cooking term means, like “glazing” or “blanch” because it takes me twice the amount of time to walk back and forth between the kitchen and my computer to google all of the directions.

So…since I became a mom, and since I’ve been at home, I’ve thrown myself into this pursuit because we love to have people over (don’t worry, I do have a few go-recipes for company – I don’t tend to expose my experiments on my friends…yet). Over the days and weeks I’ve been home, I try new recipes and give them to Tony (my lovable lab rat). Sometimes it goes over well, and then there are days like tonight when he comes home and looks in the bowl and says, “That looks disgusting.”

In all fairness maybe it did look weird.

So, all in all, I’m still determined. Despite trying to substitute baking soda for baking powder (and figuring out that doesn’t work at all), using Tony’s stomach as my kitchen experiments melting pot, and figuring out the hard way that you sometimes really do need to read all of the directions in a recipe, I have faith that one day I might by the culinary wonder that I seek to be in the kitchen. Until that day, I’m thankful for wine (to give my husband when all else fails), and the grace of friends and family who have, and will likely, continue to endure my attempts to better my inner domestic goddess.

If you have any inspiring stories about how you learned to cook, please lift my spirits and brighten my day by leaving them here.

Thank you Sammy Davis, Jr.

I’ve had some extra free time this week due to a self imposed quarantine from what Tony and I have termed “the Plague” in our house. Because of it I’ve gotten to make some headway in a book that I’ve been reading, that I have wanted to write a post about but have been hesitant because I didn’t want to be thought of as reading self help books. But, bah, here it is. In actuality it is from the genre of “Project books, non-fiction, memoir”.  The author herself calls it a ‘stunt genre’ which simply means that she tries something for a year and then writes about it. Regardless, I like it. It’s called The Happiness Project.

Gretchen Rubin, the author, designed a project full of lists, resolutions, charts, and research about happiness that spanned the course of a year to see if she could raise her general level of happiness by doing certain things. I read a book review that said “the level of organization for her project is intense.” Thats putting it lightly, but I think thats why I l like this book. Whenever I’m going for some kind of self improvement, it usually takes the form of lists or charts or projects, so I could understand where she was coming from.

Heres an excerpt from what I read today.

In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy…the arrival fallacy is a fallacy because, though you may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate. First of all, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. Also, arrival brings more work and responsibility. It’s rare to achieve something (other than winning an award) that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward toreaching these destinations, but once you reach them they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal.

This definitely holds true for me. I spend a lot of time getting to a goal, and I’m happy when I’m going for it, like with my masters, because I felt like I was getting better, being better, and going for something outside of myself. Then when I got it, I felt like I looked around and thought, “Now what?” And I start on something else, that will, in time, make me happy. Rubin writes that when she finds herself focusing too much on the anticipated happiness that awaits her in future once she’s arrived at a goal, she has to remind herself to enjoy right now. She explains that she doesn’t need (or want) to count on the happiness that may or may not be there in the future, so she wants to be happy by making sure that what she’s doing right now is gratifying.

After I read this today I thought about how important it is to have something that makes me happy now. These past few weeks have been particularly content for me, even as I read this morning that Andrew Carnegie said, “Show me a contented man, and I’ll show you a failure.” I think what he is trying to imply here is that if you’re content, then perhaps you aren’t engaged in growth or ambition or competition, but I think there’s a season for everything. Right now mine is contentment.

So while thats true, I still need something that makes me feel revived. Addie was about two months old when my Mom came down and told me to get out of the house. It was the best hour and a half I can remember for quite some time. I drove down to Red Twig Coffee in Edmonds, got a double tall extra hot raspberry latte to go, and took a drive from Edmonds to Mukilteo, all along the water. About 30 minutes into my venture by myself with my coffee and my music, I felt my whole body relax. My mind hit that sweet spot where thoughts started to make sense, and I began to feel more inspired and rejuvenated. For some people, running does this, or shopping, or talking with a good friend. Right then I needed time by myself. So this morning I took Addie in her carseat, went through the Starbucks drive through and got an Americano, and took a drive while my daughter napped. Its interesting how you can feel your body relax limb by limb when you’re doing something right for yourself.

For me, blogging is like that too. For a long time, and sometimes still, I hesitate to blog because I worry, “Isn’t it narcissistic to spend all this time writing about myself and what I think? What if I come off vain or too self occupied?” And then I have to throw that out the window, because it helps me be me. I’d rather be that than be inauthentic because I’m worried of being criticized.

Because, as Sammy Davis, Jr. once sang,

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong Whether I find a place in this world or never belong I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me, What else can I be but what I am.

To sum it up, I think everyone needs that thing that makes you feel like you, where you feel inspired and relaxed, rejuvenated and at peace, where you’re fresh and ready to take on the world. If you feel comfortable sharing what that is for you I would love to read it.

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