A splash, a dash and an anxiety attack

One of my deepest #shames, #lifefails, is my paralyzing inability to cook for my family.

Yikes. There. I said it.

I instinctively equate this issue with having a real disinterest in nurturing my family, for which I suspect judgement is in right order. Oh, I can emotionally feed my children home cooked guidance that has marinated in years of experience, observation and are tender, delicious and nourish the soul – but put me in front of an oven and I argue the kids don’t really need to eat. Do they? On top of the mommy shame rests a heavy weight that socially, I place a lot of value on the women who can cook. It’s a symbol of  having had the time and space to practice; it’s success, generosity and maternal instinct all rolled into one tasty dish and I worry that my life has manifested by way of sucking at it.

In an effort to make me more comfortable in the kitchen, my husband has purchased as many self-cooking appliances as possible. Rice cookers, slow cookers, blenders, bullets, and most recently the Instant Pot. However, due to my aversion to manuals, these appliances tend to cause me anxiety and I have managed to reverse cook rice, burn steak and slow cook chicken to death in these machines. I know one setting on the Instant Pot, and everything shall be cooked using that setting, whether it’s meat, vegetables or yogurt. The embarrassment is deep when something simple goes wrong, and I often feel like I am making things worse just by showing up. I have served my children uncooked batter, salty pie crust that nearly hospitalized us for dehydration, and really. bad. bread. And so I cook wearing heavy armour, protecting me from when the kids get that look on their face. I don’t want to experience The Deep Hurt. I’m too old to be set back a few childhood issues.

Believe it or not, I’ve made a lot of progress in that last 10 years. Ask my husband. The fact that he fell in love with me while I was eating a balanced diet of canned soup and alphaghetti and tolerates my incredible disappearing acts when it’s time to cook supper, is a miracle. I love when he talks about that early time – about how much he loved the decor of my apartment, how beautiful and alluring I was. How one day he opened my cupboards and blinked into the darkness, having his first second thought about our relationship.  He still laughs about how simple and salty my diet was, and I remember feeling like I had stepped through the wardrobe into Narnia when I walked into his apartment and it was filled with spices, rice and cooking pots that only my grandparents had.

However, I have recently discovered a chink in my own armour, and there may be a way into the world of cooking for my battered and bruised self-esteem. I have stumbled upon these magnificent pieces of writing called recipes, within which structure and safety is offered. Yes, I’ve screwed up some meals even though I followed a recipe, but because I’m following direction, when there is a screw up it’s the recipe’s fault. It didn’t say to cook the dough. Inside the world of these recipes, I am able to pretend I am a cook, and I have moments of relaxing just prior to the brocoli burning, or right before I taste the sauce. I’m not yet ready to interpret and improvise, but I can already imagine a time when I will be. And these moments, built carefully on top of each other, will one day result in a tower of confidence in the kitchen. Maybe. Hopefully.

One recipe at a time.

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