My roommate and I decided earlier in the afternoon what we’d prepare for dinner: she’d google a recipe for pork chops and I’d make a recipe to use up the carrots that had been overlooked in the refrigerator crisper. We were cooking late and so I set my laptop on top of my microwave and logged in to google chats. If college friends logged in to our Friday night check-in, I could chat while I chopped.
I moved to the island to measure out orange juice for the sauce when I looked down and saw the rubber band in the shape of a heart. I snapped a photo and knew an essay would be born from the moment.
Here I was making a recipe calm and confident in my ability to contribute to the evening’s meal. I marveled at how far I have come since early adulthood when I was convinced I was a klutz in the kitchen and that storyline was fixed for all time. In the days when my contribution to a church potluck was a bag of rolls or a loaf of bread.
Like in the garden, ushering in curiosity in the kitchen has been a game changer. With curiosity, I ask questions and consider other options: the side dish I was making with the pork chops called for cornstarch and I didn’t have any. Years earlier, this would have derailed me. Now, I sprinkled in some flour and moved on.
Having my friend in the kitchen with me—she continues to role model this flexibility and curiosity, which are becoming more common, but are not yet second nature.
In the first half of my life I brought an exacting and paralyzing perfectionism to nearly everything I did. It limited my choices and options immensely. If I wasn’t certain I could do a thing well, I steered clear of it. I couldn’t risk making a mistake.
It was only in the past decade that I came to understand that perfection had no business in creative spaces, and I began to enter the kitchen with the lightness and enthusiasm of a beginner.
I was given a cookbook for my birthday and months later as I begin to consider my meal plan for the coming week, I am sitting down and READING the cookbook. I didn’t understand the concept when some of my foodie friends mentioned the habit and joy of such a practice. Reading these recipes answers questions I didn’t know I had and expands my understanding. Reading creates expansion.
I’m reminded of something my preschool-aged daughter would say as we watched a cooking show on PBS before naptime. “I didn’t know that you could…” fill in the blank with a new technique. I am sure she’d heard me say that and was parroting it back to me, but it was a wonderful reminder to stay open and curious in my pursuit of growing in skill and confidence at the kitchen island. I think of her little voice repeating that phrase every time I chop an onion the way the cook on television taught her protégé.