We do a lot of hosting at our house, and that means a lot of cooking for me. I don’t particularly like cooking, but apparently I’m not half bad at it. Rather, I am half bad at it but the half that’s not completely burnt, over-boiled, or otherwise wasted due to negligence usually tastes pretty good, I’m told.
I always joke that most husbands, when they get in the door, call out ‘Honey, I”m home!’ My husband will walk in and automatically call out “Babe, what’s burning?”
Actually, that’s not a joke at all. He says that every single time he comes in the house. Of course, with the fire alarm blasting (mine speaks English and French: FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. FIRE! FEU! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP. And sometimes CARBON MONOXIDE! MONOXYDE DE CARBONE! BEEP BEEP BEEP BEEP.) and the kids fighting over the chance to stand on a chair with the broomstick (which we keep against the wall for this exact purpose) and stab the darn thing into silence on it’s elusive sweet spot (HUSH MODE ACTIVATED. MODE HUSH ACTIVÉ), there is no denying what I’ve been up to. Here’s another joke, but not: How do you know when it’s dinner time at my house?
But I digress…
It’s not entirely accurate that I don’t like cooking. It’s true that I’d rather be… dunno… writing, reading, hiking, not cooking etc. but I like cooking better than, say, washing dishes or bringing the trash cans in from the curb. Cooking is a chore but not the worst chore. The part I really don’t like is cleaning. Cooking means cleaning; it’s inevitable. And when you cook in a mad, hyperfocused frenzy like I do, the mess gets bigger and bigger throughout the process until it almost takes over the counter entirely., and sometimes the floor. Peelings, wrappers, dirty dishes… I hate them all. I can cook a four course meal (soup, sides, salads– yes, all plural– and main) in under two hours but the kitchen is positively ravaged when I’m done.
I never make desert, though. Guests are responsible for bringing desert, or else I cut up fruit after I serve the main course when things have calmed down a bit. I almost never bake. I hate it, and I am terrible at it. When you bake you need to be so careful about measuring and having just the right ingredient and other dull and unnecessarily uptight details. And it makes so much more mess. Not worth it.
When I cook it’s a largely spontaneous experience and always experimental, like an art piece. I know roughly what I’m making because I shopped for it that morning and it’s in the fridge waiting. But I never know exactly whether the ground beef is going to be meatballs, patties, bolognaise sauce, or lasagna until I start cooking. Herbed? Sweet n’ sour? You just never know. I might consult a recipe for inspiration, but then I always revert to whatever I think is more fitting or (let’s be honest) whatever method will result in fewer dirty pans. I have a lot of spices, and I’ve developed a feel for how to make them my own, and how much I can tweak a recipe before it turns the corner from home or exciting to meh.
Last week I was on the meds while cooking. I’d had a lot to do that day and cooking was just one of the items on the agenda, albeit a large item. I started cooking earlier than I normally would, which is maybe evidence of the medication serving it’s intended purpose. The meds were still in full effect and my appetite was pretty suppressed.
All of a sudden I realized that I had no idea what spices to use in the dish I was making. I scanned my spice rack, waiting for the right ones to pop out at me as they usually do, but they all looked the same– bland. I had to really stop and think about it in a logical fashion; What might taste good in this meat? Cinnamon? No that’s Middle Eastern and not what I’m going for. Garlic? Well yes, obviously but… oregano? Yes, that sounds Italian.. I think I’m going for ‘Italian’…
It may not sound like a big deal, but the experience was it was kind of freaky and unsettling for me. I didn’t have any precedent for this kind of feeling, and I was unsure of how to handle it at first. Imagine trying to paint a ladybug, looking at a palette of paint colours and not having any point of reference for which puddle to dip your brush into. You know it should be obvious, but the answer is somehow eluding you, like in a dream.
Well, I’ve been cooking dinners for over a decade now and my inference, if not my instinct, kicked in. I know ladybugs are red, and so I dipped my brush into the puddle labeled ‘red’. I made the food. It wasn’t artistic, but it was good, they tell me. Essentially, it was formulaic, like baking.
What an unexpected side effect for ADD / ADHD medication; Regular function might be impaired due to lack of appetite. More accurately, it was a side effect of a side effect. I wonder what other side of side effects I’m experiencing that I haven’t yet noticed. Sometimes I wonder if there are any effects at all.
Before I sign off, I want to include another story about food and my husband, just to redeem his reputation in case you think, based on this post, that he is overly harsh or critical.
When we were engaged, and this was way back before I became the gourmet chef that I am today, it was pumpkin season, and I was taken with the notion of making pumpkin soup. Working from my gut, I brought the pumpkin home, baked it, peeled it, pureed it, and spiced it, and then served it to my fiancee and a friend of mine for dinner that night. The soup was horrible and not at all what I’d intended. I couldn’t eat it and neither could my friend. But my darling man tasted it, said “It’s not that bad, maybe I’ll just put some humus in it.” Yes, he ate the whole bowl with humus in it. And that is why I love him.
Notice: No ladybugs were harmed or ingested in the writing of this blog post or ever, really, by the author, to the best of her knowledge.
I had a phone call the other day from what I guess I’d call a friend-once-removed (an FOR), by which I mean she is a person who is friends with another friend of mine, and who, consequently, I see several times a year but don’t really have anything else to do with. I like her fine. I’m just not particularly close with her. An FOR.
Although I was initially surprised to hear from her, her motives became clear as soon as she said the words ‘hoping you can help me with a little venture I’m working on.’ My suspicions were confirmed when her schpiel ended with ‘can I meet you for coffee?’
“Is this Arbonne?”
Arbonne is a line of products whose marketing scheme is word-of-mouth and rhymes with “Fonzie.”
“I’m not buying anything– you should know.” I didn’t want to mislead her, though clearly she was trying to mislead me by making it sound like she cared for my actual companionship.
It’s fine, she told me. Even if I didn’t buy anything I’d still be helping her firm up her pitch and it would be good practice. I was being asked to help. I was flattered. We made a date.
I don’t necessarily disrespect people who choose to chase the dream and make ‘a little money in their spare time,’ as it were. In fact, I was totally impressed by FOR’s verve , get-go, drive, or whatever you want to call it. It takes some serious cajones to call people out of the blue when you barely know them and try to get them to open their hearts, schedules, and wallets to you. Of course, it makes it easier if you’ve already destroyed relationships with all your original friends, but it’s all worth it, I think, when the Arbonne people show up at your door with a thank-you gift in the form of a white Mercedes. No, really, they promise you a Benz if you sell enough body lotion and shampoo. Whooooa. Happy days!
I was trying to avoid sarcasm in this post and now look at me. I blame the Fonz but the Fonz doesn’t care. Aaaaay!
So I met with this FOR at one afternoon at a popular coffee place which I will not name but rhymes with Spar… Bucks… and I brought my Little One, who happened to have a day off. He was excited for the hot chocolate aspect of the meeting, and I was excited to do my friend of a friend a good turn as she began her journey to purported financial freedom.
I should mention that I’ve already been accosted by friends in the past who got on the Arbonne train. In fact, I’d won an entire gift basket worth of merchandise from a trade show and through some internal political hierarchies having to do with geography and/or nepotism, the person assigned to my followup telephone call was a girl not-removed from me, but an actual friend. An actual friend that I had to listen to as she rambled on about the products for fifty minutes until I managed to find some reason to excuse myself from the conversation. So I know a little bit about Arbonne. I’m still friends with that girl, by the way, but we’ve never ever spoken about what I’ve come to think of as The Horrible Arbonne Incident.
I scheduled FOR’s coffee date for the end of the school day just in case it… uh… didn’t have a natural end. I figured 45 minutes was enough time for her to practice her shpiel, drink a coffee, try some products, and get out. To make a long story short, I learned about Arbonne all over again, even though I told her, in nicer terms, about my previous education in the same department. I had the complete presentation including power point, demo booklet, and a little trial kit of toiletries — six products!! — that I was meant to use daily and return to her after three days. Six products? I feel proud if I have the energy to brush my teeth at the end of the day! I can’t even remember to take my ADD meds three day in a row!
Of course, I ended up taking it all home in a tote bag embossed with enormous company logos. I somehow followed the skincare routine for three full days (though I used up the little squirt of night cream on DD’s dry hands when we couldn’t find her regular lotion). I even met her on the morning of day 4, though I forgot the tote bag which I’ll have to get to her at a later date. I did not remember to take my pills during this time.
To add insult to injury, turns out the FOR is not new to Arbonne. She did not need to practice her pitch on me because she has been doing it for over two years. My efforts at do-goodism were for naught. I’m such a sucker.
But I digress.
Seeing FOR in action, even though the action was being taken against me, in a way, was somehow inspiring. The girl has a goal: to supplement her income (which I would describe as steady but limited). She has a means: The Fonz. She has a market: Other FOR. She has a modus operandi: Call, cajole, coffee, call again. And she does it. It sounds easy, but know how difficult it can be to tear oneself away from a good game of candy crush and make even a single sales call. I know it’s hard to put oneself out there and present oneself with confidence, even if you believe that the rewards are great and have optional seat warmers.
So even though I don’t think I’ll be peddling beauty products anytime soon, I can take a lesson from my FOR and push myself to write one more blog post or send out that promo package.
Because as she, and so many zombie-like and glowy-cheeked Benz hopefuls before her remind us: Don’t think “what if it doesn’t work?” Think “what if it does?”
Considering that I’m not great at focusing and getting things done, I’m really really good at telling others exactly what to do to get things done.
You see, I am perfectly good, and even great, at figuring out the next steps. It’s clear as day to me: Design the brochure, put together a package, mail it out, follow up with phone calls. The problem is just preventing myself from reading one just one more episode recap of Nashiville. (I’m impatient with all the drama and it’s so much more satisfying to find out where all the relationships are headed which, like every soap opera, is nowhere. Knowing the end has absolutely no impact of my enjoyment of any entertainment media or books. But that’s another blog post for another time.)
I am great a organizing my husband. At least, I am great at setting up systems for him, though whether or not he keeps to them is another story. I organize the kids’ rooms but they’re not old enough to appreciate my efforts yet.
My latest attempt at getting someone else to get things done has been aimed at my friend Dinah. She runs a small business, but the way I see it, she has only just begun to exploit the potential of it. And so I try to tell her what to do. For the record , she has told me, when asked, that my prompting and nose-sticking is not annoying for her and that she needs a kick in the pants sometimes. And so I kick. And nudge.
Here’s an example:
I’m trying to get her to do a program with a nearby restaurant. It wasn’t my idea; it was hers, and it is a good one, in my opinion. I did spend some time hashing out the details with her of what the program would look like, and how to advertise it. I even made her two Instagram posts on the spot so that she could upload them immediately and get moving. I know how hard it is to start the momentum on a project, but I also know that step one is often the hardest but that the following steps usually schedule themselves. So I told her to do just one baby step that day, and then I bugged her about getting that one task done:
It’s been almost a week since our initial conversation (though we started talking about expanding her business probably over two months ago). I sent her this text five days ago, and she didn’t do her ‘homework,’ as she calls it. I saw her again today and started in on her. She’s having a really busy week with guests from out of town and a big event this weekend, but I insisted that she just call the restaurant and book a meeting to talk to them. I promised to remind her about it in the afternoon after the lunch rush.
She hasn’t responded yet.
I know that in order to make things happen for myself, I need to make a commitment to SOMEONE ELSE. I need to commit to having some material to show someone by a certain date, with the consequence that I will either be very embarrassed about myself, or that I will let someone down if I don’t follow through.
The problem is that very often we only have ourselves to answer to, and it’s not enough. I should say that my problem (and thank heavens for my problems) is that there is nobody in particular who is going to suffer or even be disappointed by the things I neglect to do. I’m not talking about making dinner– I’m an excellent dinner improviser. I am talking about the things I dream about doing and will myself to do and even make time for myself to do, but don’t.
I don’t know that Dinah is complicated in the exact same way, but I think it’s safe to say she needs someone to answer to, and so I’ve appointed myself. This is me: The life coach. I wonder if I can make a career out of this? On the other hand, if she never follows through, I guess it’s a fail for me. What kind of life coach am I anyway, if I can’t even get a person to make a single phone call?
They say that those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.
I guess I’m a teacher.