My mother was an effortless cook. Without the use of a cookbook recipe she could create the most delicious foods. Her skill developed from the making of thousands of meals. Her confidence born from the confidence that intelligent and creative people sometimes have. But she didn’t teach me how to cook, Julia Child did.
Despite her avocation my mother loved to watch cooking shows, and as a small child I would watch them with her. I was captivated by Julia Child. Enormously tall, she had a high falsetto voice and a higher level of enthusiasm… I watched transfixed, as she blended, rolled, diced and folded. She did things with a dedicated purpose that showed me the skill and science of cooking. Boeuf Bourguignon, Cassoulet, Beef Wellington, Mousse au Chocolat… the creations went on.
I cooked a little when I was younger, not much. Then, as a divorced young resident physician, I returned to the kitchen. With little to no money, cooking provided me a way to stretch a dollar. Additionally, it served as a creative outlet.
Gradually the time demands of my career pulled me away from cooking, and I had virtually stopped by the time that I remarried and Julie took over the role as house chef.
And then Julie returned to work. The time that was spent making meals was now being devoted to other activities. Homemade meals transitioned to simpler fare, and the percentage of carry out and drive thru meals grew exponentially. Our kids were used to meals that came to the table in serving bowls, not paper wrappers… they protested strongly.
I have to admit that I too grew tired of double cheeseburgers and frozen pizza. Julie’s stress continued to increase as she transitioned from a group practice to her own private practice. In contrast, I was purposefully reducing my stress level on many fronts.
My daughter Grace is an amazing and talented girl. She is one of those individuals who is good at many things. This can be a good thing, but sometimes too many career choices can be immobilizing. Yesterday morning I was sitting with her. She was eating a late breakfast, and I was munching on an orange. We got onto the topic of college and college majors. I told her that instead of focusing on a discrete career choice she should first think about her general areas of interests. If she choose a path that fulfilled her general interests, she would ultimately pick her right career path.
I know the things that interest me. I like to learn and teach. I like science and technology. I like comparing things. I like gadgets. I like doing creative things. I like feeling that I am contributing to society. I want the world to be a tiny bit better because I was in it, not a tiny bit worse. Both my personal life and my professional life are guided by the above tenets.
Dear reader, at this point you are likely wondering how the above paragraphs are related. I can assure you that they are. They intersect on Thursdays, specifically at the Cooking With Dad Thursday portion of the day.
As the kids complaints about the lack of homemade meals grew my initial solution was to simply take over the grocery shopping and cooking. Although within the range of my capability, the prospect was not appealing. Despite my efforts to reduce my personal stress I was still working two high demand jobs. In addition, I had already taken over a variety of other household tasks.
Dear reader, I believe in turning problems into solutions and flaws into strengths. Making homemade food for my kids didn’t have to be a burden, it could be a blessing with a little thought; and so it was.
Every week the kids and I pow-wow on what we want to make for Thursday dinner. At 5 PM on Thursday we work together preparing the food, setting the table and (subsequently) cleaning up the mess. Our meals are not the elaborate concoctions that Julia Child created, but they involve a lot of basic cooking techniques, which I get to teach my kids. I often research recipes, and in the process I learn and compare. We talk about the science of cooking as we create our meal. Naturally, I employ gadgets, from pressure cookers to toaster ovens. A chore becomes a new tradition. My kids learn how to cook, I spend time with my kids, we work as a team. Our activity culminates with good food and good conversation.
Now that Julie has settled into her work life she is cooking more, but Cooking With Dad Thursday remains. At dinner time we will usually go around the table and tell each other our rose and thorn (good and bad) of the day. On Thursdays it not uncommon for all of us to say that one of our roses was preparing and eating a meal together. A potential burden has transcended.
Today my goal is to appreciate that life’s daily activities are not burdens, but they are potential gifts.