Kitchen Courage




Without fail, every Friday since the pandemic started, (excluding the four while I was at my dad’s deathbed in Mexico), my husband and I have enjoyed date night. Ironically, pre-COVID, date night was a source of conflict for us. My husband thought it was expensive, caloric, and of questionable quality. I, on the other hand, thought it offered variety, conversational intimacy, and a break from daily domestic work. Alas! Who knew it would be a pandemic that would shift my man to my way of thinking! Here’s how it works: I plan what to make, do the shopping, and cook with a podcast in my ear (and sometimes a glass of wine in hand). He tidies up the living room, sets the coffee table, and lights all the candles. After the meal, he does all the clean up.


So that’s the backdrop.


This Friday, over filet mignon and a wilted-arugula and caramelized onion tartlet, my husband said he’d come across an old German text at his parents’ house that said something like: “Lose your job, and it’s ok. You can recover from that. Lose your reputation, and it’s trouble. That’ll be tough to recover from. Lose your courage, though, and all is forever lost.” It really resonated with him. If you soberly reflect on what you do, he explained, you’ll see that courage (or lack thereof), is at the root of all human actions.


Here’s a personal example: I say I might have to have an eye surgery. He says he hopes he’ll still be employed. I take it personally (since his employment pays for my health insurance), so I feel hurt. With courage, he might have said I am afraid I won’t be able to take care of you because my employers might decide I’m not valuable to them. That would have sounded like love and concern and vulnerability to me, and would have made me feel closer to him. Alternatively, even if he had made his original statement about being employed, I could have taken the courage to be vulnerable and said I’m afraid you think I’m not an equal contributor, and in my head, that makes me less valuable --less loveable; I want to feel loved even if my contributions aren’t completely financial. To my husband, that might have sounded like: I value your opinion of me; I respect what you do; I’m insecure about my own contributions. Had either one of us taken the courage to be honest, it would have opened the door to empathy and compassion from the other. It would have made room for more - not less - connection.

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Today is Sunday. Two days after the courage-conversation. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. I’ve decided courage is my superpower (to use a newly cliched term). Every day I find the courage to do something I’ve never done before, something that could end in failure, face-plant, ego-burst. Half the time, I go in head first, full of doubt, thinking people probably just think I’m stupid, because who would launch a business in a saturated market? Who would leave a steady job during a pandemic? Who would try to frame a wall without the first clue how? Who would risk ruining a work of art that took 50 hours to produce by adding a red line that can’t be undone at the very end?


I would.


I might be stupid.


Or…


I might be courageous!


So, that is a dramatic and not entirely clear sequitur to this: cooking without a recipe, which is what I actually set out to discuss in this blog! But it’s kind of in the same spirit: cooking without a recipe is risky. It could be wasteful. It could open a sister to criticism.


AND, I don’t care!


You shouldn’t either. The way to learn to cook without need of a recipe is to decide two things upfront: 1) you don’t care about the outcome, so long as it is edible, and 2) if it’s disastrous, you are smart enough to find a solution on the fly. (Doesn’t everyone love spontaneous take-out? Or how about cereal for dinner?!)


A third, not critical, but helpful thought is this: it’ll be FUN! :-)


So, take courage, sisters! Free yourselves of need for a recipe! Finally figure out what in the hell to do with that jar of Thai curry, that fancy bottle of balsamic, those capers that’ve been sitting in their brine for three months straight! I’m going to share a path toward this end over several blog entries. In the mean time, don’t tell yourself you know nothing about food --you have SO many more data points than you realize, and each one will link with another and help you decide what ingredients to pick and in what proportions to use them. Here is a rough outline of the questions each entry will answer. If you have specific questions not listed here, send them to me, and I will incorporate answers!


  • STEP 1: WHAT TO COOK?

  • Finding a flavor profile

  • STEP 2: WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE IN THIS DISH?

  • Mentally mining your pre-existing knowledge

  • Scanning your food stores efficiently

  • Making intuitive substitutions

  • A few basic rules

  • STEP 3: WHAT PROPORTIONS SHOULD I USE?

  • Use your memory of things you’ve eaten before

  • Trust your inner logic

  • STEP 4: WHAT COOKING METHOD SHOULD I CHOOSE

  • Cooking methods? What are those?!

  • A few general guidelines to achieve specific textures

  • Winging it when you don’t have the right tools

  • STEP 5: HOW LONG DOES IT COOK FOR?

  • Using your senses to test doneness --a few basic rules

  • STEP 6: WHAT DID I GET RIGHT?

  • Reflecting and adjusting with humor

  • STEP SEVEN: NOW HOW DO I MAKE IT HEALTHIER?

  • Food combinations for optimal health

  • STEP EIGHT: HOW DO I MAKE IT FASTER?

  • Prepping and planning for quicker homemade meals


Can’t wait to get healthy and have fun finding freedom in the kitchen together! xoxo



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