To cook or not to cook?

Over the holiday break (because I’m a teacher, so it’s a treat after long hours with crazy young teens), we visited lots of family and enjoyed many wonderful evenings spent visiting and playing cards. Normally, I do a lot of cooking on my visits, so I expect, always, “to cook.” However, this year, our trip to visit my husband’s (Ben’s) family was shorter than normal because we attended my cousin’s wedding and thus stayed with my dad a couple of days, when we would normally have been in Twisp, Washington, hopefully enjoying snow because it’s been a bit meager in the last couple of years. As usual, Ben’s conversations with family increased as our visit drew near, and I asked the annual question of his mother, “Should I plan to cook one evening?” And you know what she said? “No.” The response involved staying flexible and seeing what happens, and I get this because it was such a short visit. I could understand, rationally, that with only four nights, it might be challenging, amidst family chaos, to find an evening and restrict activity for everyone. “Shelley’s cooking tonight, so we can’t do that.” What a drag. I got it.

But then I started thinking. What does this mean? Should I be offended? Ben’s parents are the most loving people, and I know neither (I hope) has a vindictive muscle or piece of tissue. But, when you’re a cook, and you’re asked NOT to cook? What does that mean? NOT TO COOK! Is it about me or is it about the context? Of course, I know it’s about the context, but like most people, the ego steps in and thinks, “it’s me.” Am I too demanding? If I’m going to enjoy preparing a meal, I want everyone else to enjoy the event, and this means that it’s an event. This also means that the meal, the ensemble, is just as important as the process in which it was created. It is as much for me as it is for them. It is a dĂ©nouement–a climactic exchange of food and energy in the kitchen with steam rising, smells wafting and music stimulating.

Without occasion to investigate new recipes and compose an arrangement of flavors, how would I spend my time? And then I discovered something. I would spend my time. That’s it. Time is meant to be spent and people are meant to play, particularly when on a holiday. How do I feel in hindsight? Not sure. I missed it, the cooking. I missed the delicious moment of pursing my lips, drinking coffee and sifting through recipes to prepare for fun. Fun happened without cooking of course, but it also always happens in my kitchen. Cooking. Is. Fun.

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