Confessions of Domestic Deficiency, and a Poem

Kitchens are for science experiments

One day my son, who was around seven at the time, came into the kitchen where I was working. I’ve never heard more sincere effusiveness in a voice than when he expressed his excitement over what I was preparing for dinner. “That’s my favorite recipe out of everything you make!” he told me. I was opening cans of soup.

And he’s not the only youngster I’ve impressed with my cuisine. A friend of his spent the afternoon with us once and went home to tell his parents about what I had served for a snack. “She makes the best waffles!” he told them. “You cook them right in the toaster.” The kid’s mom is a friend of mine, so we were able to laugh when she related this to me later.

I’ve never been…enthusiastic, shall we say…about cooking. For me, it’s much more about the end result than the process. Frankly, I’d rather be writing. Which is why I don’t impress the adults quite so much.

The list of my culinary failures is long. When I was a young newlywed, my extremely large extended family held a reunion. One of my aunts put herself in charge of organizing the food. Which was probably smart and necessary, so we wouldn’t end up with fifty bowls of potato salad. But I think she made certain assumptions. Such as believing my two X chromosomes enabled deviled egg making abilities. Shortly before the reunion, I received a letter from my aunt listing what dish each family member should bring. And by each family member, I mean the adult females, even the ones who had married into the clan. Her own sons were responsible for nothing, but their wives were.

Next to my name, I saw the words “deviled eggs.” I had no idea how to make those. This was in the days before the internet, so I couldn’t have a recipe on my computer screen within five minutes. Oh, I suppose I could have cracked open a cookbook during one of my frequent trips to the public library. Or, you know, called my mom. But I decided I’d rather put my energies toward rants about the ingrained sexism in my family of origin.

“This is exactly why I hate cooking!” I’d say to my long-suffering husband. “Because women are just *expected* to do it.” Oh, I was happy to move away from my conservative old-fashioned upbringing, in which women were judged by cooking abilities. Meanwhile, I had a family reunion to attend, at which I appeared bearing a dozen hard-boiled eggs with devil faces drawn on the shells. Clever of me, wasn’t it?

In the more current meantime, I have friends and relatives all along the conservative-liberal spectrum. And  I find many of the liberal friends are all about what and how people cook. Is it organic? Did you buy local? I like slow food. You’re not wasting packaging by buying pre-made foods are you?  Where can I go that I’m not expected to cook??????

It’s not that I want to shirk the food prep altogether. I have learned to cook a few things along the way. I’m not bad at non-canned soups when I have time – you cut things up and throw them in a pan together. We even have a garden every year. Okay, mostly my husband has a garden every year. But I weed sometimes and I do use the food in our meals. I’ve gone as far as to make my own salsa.

About three years ago, I decided I would change my attitude. I would embrace cooking. I would enjoy the process, being in present for the experience, totally in the moment. I really threw myself into it, and I came to…eh, not hate the chore as much as I once did. I’ve come to realize cooking is necessary, and can even be enjoyable. But, while I no longer detest it, I also know it will never be The Thing That Fulfills Me. I will never find myself thinking “If only I had half an hour to myself to go into the kitchen and whip something up” in the same way that I long for a half an hour to write.

I did write a poem about my lack of domesticity, though:

What Gift Is This*

Next to us the neighbor grows
Peppers, chives, tomatoes, lettuce
Brings a gift of produce freshly
Picked to welcome us as we settle
Sisters, friends and cousins knit
Scarves and blankets, bake and sew
Cookies, quilts or crochet afghans
Always they are ready with
An Offering for any major
Life event – a baby, death
Or illness, they appear in front halls
Bringing sustenance, warmth and comfort
My dilemma – how to pay
In kind when I am overdone
In cooking, brown of thumb, too large
Of stitch, and plain old undomestic
What reaction would I see
If I showed up, a sheaf of papers
In my hand, a look of welcome/
Sympathy / congratulations
On my face and said to them
Have some poems freshly penned

*This poem originally appeared in Well Versed.

A Year of Gratitude

What kind of awesome was 2011? All kinds of awesome. This past year, I decided to use my Twitter account (I’m @damari19 if anyone’s interested) as a sort of personal/public gratitude journal. My goal was to tweet about something I found awesome every day for a year.  I missed a few days, but very few. I highly recommend doing this, whether via twitter or post-it notes or a silent thought right before you go to sleep. Getting in the habit of noticing one specific good thing each day has helped my mood and attitude tremendously.

I tried to find something new each day, though sometimes I forgot I’d already counted something as awesome earlier in the year. Omelets got three separate mentions. So did Dr. Who.

Looking back over my year in gratitude tweets, certain themes are prominent:

My top category seems to be food, which might explain what’s happened to my waistline. See omelets, above. Pie got two nods from me, once on 3/14 and again at Christmas. But I was also grateful for lettuce from our garden, basil from our garden, and the salsa I made using jalapenos from our garden. Halloween candy. A falafel dog from Mutt’s in Oklahoma City. Also drinks – coffee and tea come up, tea more than once.

Family and friends garnered many mentions. My husband cleaned the windows. I noticed when my kids did chores without being nagged. Got to visit my mom. My brother and sister-in-law knocked themselves out as hosts when we visited for Thanksgiving. Coffee with a friend. Inside jokes with old friends. I am immensely and always grateful for my various relationships.

I notice I commented a lot on the trouble don’t last category. Getting over a cold. Kids getting over colds. Rain after a drought. Figuring out how we’re going to pay for unexpected expenses. Cicadas went away. It’s all good.

Then there was nature. Crocus. Daffodils. Peonies. Autumn leaves. Goldfinches who visit our yard every day. Playing in the snow.

I had lots of comments on internet stuff, either cool websites or links to inspiring stories. Here are a few.:
1,000 Awesome Things – my inspiration
– my daughter does her homeschool math through ALEKS.
Khan Academy – another educational resource
TED Talks
Fictiondb – near-comprehensive lists of fiction series.
Newsreel footage of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.
Project Gutenberg – free ebooks

Literature plays a big part in my life. This past year I’ve found awesome in authors’ birthdays – e.g. Ray Bradbury and Kurt Vonnegut. Various books. Meeting with a new writers’ group. Meeting writing goals. Getting paid to write blog entries and newspaper articles as part of my day job. My son asking to go to the library because he’d read everything he has in the house. A student running a banned books library from her school locker.

Events, small and large:  Corn maze. 4th of July fireworks. Biggest family vacation ever – a trip to Florida where we visited Universal Islands of Adventure (one a side note, the Forbidden Journey is the best amusement park ride I’ve ever experienced) and my kids saw the ocean for the first time.

Those that defy categorization:
2/24/11: W. Shatner singing Mr. Tambourine Man & L. Nimoy singing Where Is Love on same CD
3/7/11: Using the large almost-vintage paper-cutter at work, with its dials and wheels. A combination of meditation & steampunk.
7/19/11: Seeing the interior lights come on when I click the unlocker in the direction of my van. It looks so happy to see me!
10/17/11: Curly hair being considered cool again. Thanks Alex Kingston and River Song!

And finally, one from a category I think of as “In Retrospect, the Joke’s on Me.”
“10/22/11: Procured winter coat for son at a great price.”  Yeah, he’s already outgrown it.