November 27, 2010

Burnt Cookbooks and Second Chances

To say that I didn’t know how to cook when I got married would not begin to describe the depth of my culinary ignorance. To say that I didn’t know how to boil water without burning it would be closer to the truth. Matt should have seen it coming when I offered to cook us dinner on our second date and served him a piece of tough chicken, swimming, yes, swimming, in soupy, yet hard, rice with tomato chunks floating along. Bravely he took a bite and, to his credit, smiled and said it was mmmmhhhh, good but one bite is all he took before claiming he just was not hungry that evening.
Early into our marriage I decided making spaghetti sauce from scratch could not possibly be too difficult. I had, of course, never made it, but how hard could it be, right? It was going fine until the recipe called for “simmering” for 45 minutes. I had no idea what simmering meant but was too proud and stubborn to ask Matt. So, I put the heat on medium (neither too hot nor too cold should be fine!) and left it for 45 minutes. Yup. You guessed it. I had a ruined pan and no sauce to show for.
The first church we pastored had some amazing cooks and bakers and our potluck dinners could be legendary. My reputation in the kitchen preceded me and every time we had a potluck dinner I was asked to bring…a bag of chips. It didn’t hurt my feelings, not really; I understood their trepidation. After the floating pecan pie incident I didn’t have much faith that there was hope for me yet.
Shortly after I quit my job to stay home with the children I began to experiment more and more in the kitchen. Since the house was now my job I decided I should quit asking Matt to make dinner and step up to the plate. The journey was a slow and painful one, but after some trial and error, a few dishes nobody wants to eat again ever, and a cookbook that caught on fire, I began to feel more and more confident that I could feed my family and not poison them.
I will never forget the first time I was asked to bring a dessert to a church potluck. This was our new church and, apparently, they knew nothing of my infamous cooking skills, so they thought it natural to ask the preacher’s wife to contribute a dish to the meal. Oh, joy of joys! I hung up the phone, eyes wide with surprise and wonder, turned to Matt and said: “They asked me to bring a dessert! They asked ME to bring a dessert! They asked me to bring a DESSERT!!!”
This may sound silly to you but my heart was full to the brim. They didn’t know I couldn’t cook, they didn’t assume I would bring pie in a glass, or cookies that would only serve to stop a door. They just gave me a chance and I took it. I spent hours pouring over recipes, watching videos on and trying to decide what to make. I finally decided, purchased the ingredients, carefully prepared the dessert and proudly took it to church that Sunday morning.
I watched people come up to the dessert table, take a sampling, and take it back to their table…and eat it! My dessert! The word got out that it was the first time I had brought a home-made dessert to a public gathering and people went out of their way to congratulate me and even asked for the recipe. It was nothing complicated, nothing delicious, nothing that those veterans of the kitchen world could not whip up with their eyes closed. But to me, their enthusiasm, encouragement, and grace made me feel like Julia Childs made over.
Since then I’ve gone down a path I never thought I would take. I have developed a love for cooking, and especially, baking, that has brought my family hours of enjoyment, if not a few extra pounds. Today my sweet husband braved the crazy black Friday sales to buy me a Kitchen Aid mixer (the dream of many bakers!) because he says he can’t wait to see what yummy treats will come out of it.
This Thanksgiving I’m grateful for second chances that heal and restore confidence. I’m grateful for new beginnings, clean slates, and opportunities to learn from past mistakes. But I’m even more grateful that I’m a friend of the God who invented second chances, new beginnings, clean slates, and opportunities to learn from past mistakes not only in the kitched but in every aspect of our lives. And a people who, created in his image and following his lead, believe in each other and encourage one another, mentor each other and forgive one another with love, grace, and warmth. 


Carole St-Laurent said...

Good for you Gaby. If there's any recipe that you feel is a challenge to you, and want to run it by me, and if it's something I can do, let me know. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer almost every day.

Michelle said...

Funny enough, just this morning, our rabbi led a discussion on whether people could change -- and here you are proving it IS possible. OK, so the rabbi was talking about Judah's transformation from questionable to decent human being, not going from bad to good cook. But, since you are clearly already a wonderful human being, your improvement in the kitchen is surely a notable transformation. And I love how much you appreciate having the ability/opportunity for change.

Have fun with your new KitchenAid. May there be much happy mixing in your future!

Deborah said...

So did you make anything for Thanksgiving? I think it's really amazing, like Michelle said, that you're able to look at your change as a chance to heal past mistakes and restore confidence. And it's amazing that you were able to learn and improve so much!

Gaby said...

To Carole, that means a lot to me coming from such a chef as you :)

To Michelle, thank you for your kind words! I think your rabbi and I are in the same wavelength; this story is but a sample of all the second chances we are given in life by God, and people around us who understand forgiveness.

To Deborah, as I write this my oven is broken. Ironic, huh? So I could only make a salad to contribute this year. My husband keeps pestering me to post a picture of the burnt cookbook here. I just may...