I’m not really much of a cook. The men and women on all sides of my family seemed to have enjoyed it, but it really feels like a lot of energy to do it. Of course, I do so sometimes, but really only when I have to. I excel at boiling water, softening hard pasta, making popcorn (microwave or otherwise), and heating food, but cooking, not so much.
There are exceptions to this. I have made spaghetti on occasion, which boiling and heating pre-made spaghetti sauce at the very least, and browning hamburger or another meat at the most. A friend has introduced me to “pasta bake,” which involves an oven, virtually unheard of for me unless I’m making fries, cookies or cake, and that really is once in a blue moon.
I do make fudge, which is merely the recipe on the back of marshmallow cream, during Christmas. Really, really horrible stuff for the body, but very yummy. My late mother made it with pecans, and I can almost taste it along with the memory. And today I tried something different. Combined two boxes of macaroni (shells and normal) added cream of chicken soup, and made chicken to put it in. I wasn’t crazy about it, but hey, it was an attempt at something.
Although it is nice to have accomplished something cooking sometimes, the process also makes me really appreciate those who enjoy and who are proficient cooks. My grandparents were excellent cooks, and growing up I became really used to them doing so. My dad was also good at cooking meat, having run a chicken restaurant, although he preferred the grill, which he used often.
In the past when I’ve been given a meal, especially one prepared for me, or even an item for the palate as a gift that has been hand-crafted, I’ve always felt a deep appreciation. It’s not just that someone cared enough to share, or treated me, or even made something especially for me, but it’s also that I received something in an area of which I lack. I know that on the food side of things I’m not particularly talented, but I feel grateful when someone who is talented shares it with me.
The inverse is also the same. When there is something with which I have a particular talent or ability, such as writing, or listening, or mediating, I feel blessed to be able to do so. Just today I was asked by a friend to help check an email because “I have a way with words.” I liked that I could give of myself for that person.
It’s always nice to have the ability of contribution to someone or something worthy, and it’s just as nice to be on the receiving end of worthiness. Part of connecting in deeper ways itself is giving and receiving. A sort of Christmas if you will of making parts of ourselves vulnerable and open to each other.
Bonding in such a way provides stark contrast to the barbed shame and blame I see in the media. At Nimitz today I witnessed the faculty trading their talents in working with students. There was no barbed exchange or judgment in these cases. My people saw what was going on with students, worked together for the good of the students and the system, and gave of themselves in the process. In a debriefing session with two of them I felt grateful that I worked with them and could be a spectator in their giftings being poured out on the students. It was much like me having received leftover portions of food they had made for the students, and getting a taste of how delicious it was.
Would that we as people, communities, nations and the world would readily make ourselves more available to others this way more often. It might serve to connect the silos that separate us. Perhaps it would provide a reason when we have drastic differences to work through them wholeheartedly. It is the stuff of sharing and intimacy.
Here are some tools that have helped me.
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