I am a secret wanna be chef, even though cooking was not a priority in my home of origin. At grade school age I signed up for cooking and baking in a local 4-H club. I learned how to bake cupcakes without giant air pockets inside of them, and jelly..although there was the morning after a practice batch that my mother and I went into the kitchen to find sugar ants by the thousands feeding on the sweet concoction. In high school I enrolled in FHA (Future Homemakers of America) classes where, for days, we created every known and unknown recipe for left over cooked pinto beans, of course, we learned and experimented with many other food groups…the pinto beans just seem to stand out in my memory. I wonder why?
Marriage brought daily responsibilities for kitchen duties on top of a full time job. I was 19 years old and had never lived on my own. I remember calling my dad one day to ask how to cut up a whole chicken to be able to fry it. At that time I didn’t know you could purchase them already cut up. There were stories of dove breast soup peppered so much it wasn’t edible…but my husband and his co-worker managed to choke it down, the neck bone soup I made my parents…no one told me there was no meat on a neck bone, and a winter or two there were many pots of ham and beans due to tight finances. Thank heaven for that high school cooking class on the many ways to recycle pinto beans! And I can’t forget the gourmet meal I made my husband and married children for Thanksgiving. The idea came from a ladies Bible study. No one in my family was impressed with my gourmet creativity. My first clue should have been ladies luncheon menu…light fare. Back to the turkey and dressing I went!
Over the years I have been surrounded by friends who were wonderful, talented bakers and loved to whip up meals in their kitchens. One friend in particular truly has the gift of hospitality. I loved an invitation from her. There was nothing more meaningful in my life than sitting down at her table over food, wine and conversation. She and her husband now live hundreds of miles away and I miss those sweet times. I spent a few days with them last year. She planned menus, baked me a beautiful chocolate cake and treated me to their favorite restaurants and foods. She recently surprised me with an ebook, “Bread and Wine” by Shauna Niequist. The words of the book inspire me to try my hand at new recipes and my perceptions of being in the kitchen are changing. For the author, food and fellowship are one in the same. Deep relationships and true friendships are created over kitchen utensils and table settings. That’s what happened around my friend’s table. We shared our heartaches, joys, frustrations and victories. Her table was warm and simple…complete with a soul searching question at each place setting that was answered through laughter and tears.
Once a month I have a group of friends who arrive at my home with their home-cooked meals to share around my table. We created a life long bond working in the same department in an orange box store. We are now scattered to other jobs and positions, but our hearts are tied together forever and we celebrate each other over a blessed meal.
Maybe the reason I want to become more adept in the kitchen is what it truly brings to the table, the sacred experience of sharing my heart and life with those who want to be in my presence and those I could not imagine my life without.