In Pursuit of the Joy of Cooking

A couple months ago, Kerry chose the worst possible moment to utter
what were already dangerous words for any man to say to a woman: “I
really want you to learn to cook.” After he apologized for his timing
and I got over it, I admitted to myself and him that it was a very
reasonable request.

It wasn’t the first time cooking has come up in our marriage.

Kerry is a gifted cook. He sees food in a pantry where I see nothing.
(Kind of like the little kid in Sixth Sense, only less creepy.) He
approaches the kitchen the way an artist approaches a blank canvas –
not sure what might emerge, but excited about the possibilities. I
approach the kitchen with four small children clinging to my legs, and
I am excited to emerge and go to bed.

I’m not a Bad Cook. I don’t burn food, cook out of boxes, start fires
in the kitchen, serve things that require power tools instead of
utensils, etc. I can follow recipes just fine and there are a few
things I cook well. No, I’m more what you’d call a “boring and
uninspired cook.” I lack vision. And when I look at a raw chicken, it
kind of seems like it’s looking back, and I am just a little afraid.

(Un)Fortunately, while Kerry is gifted at cooking, he is also gifted
at going to work all day and coming home hungry, so it falls to me.

For the last seven years I have argued with Kerry that it should be
enough for me to be competent at cooking. Passable, if not passionate.
Involved if not in love. And I have resented what has felt like
pressure to be something I’m not.

So after Kerry made his blunt statement and I stopped feeling whatever
I was feeling about it, I asked him: Why is it so important to you
that I enjoy cooking? He had been asking himself the same thing, and
it essentially came down to this:

Nourishing food is really important, and preparing and eating it fills
a significant part of every day. So the food should be tasty and the
time should be meaningful. Why settle for a boring chore if you can
instead have a little adventure of life and love and laughter and
memories and good smells and new discoveries? Why trudge if you can

It’s a poor rendering of the vivid picture Kerry painted. His had soft
edges and music in the background. And cheerful children who savored
their garden-fresh veggies and never said “yuck.” It was compelling. And I resolved to dig in and learn the skills that will make it possible.

I’m sure it will take me a few years to begin to really live this joy
of cooking, which is about how long it will take the children to
mature into more pleasant mealtime companions. Meantime, I will refine
a thick Mediterranean accent so I can curse in the kitchen and answer
truthfully but unintelligibly when the kids ask what’s for dinner.

Some sweet and wise friends who delight their husbands at mealtime and
have successfully raised and fed their own children have agreed to
teach me a thing or two, which I am allowed to share on my blog.

The journey begins.


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