“Life is a dream for the wise, a game for the fool, a comedy for the rich, a tragedy for the poor.”
Growing up, I just knew I was going to be a career woman. Unlike the woman in the Enjoli commercial, I might bring home the bacon, but I wouldn’t have to fry it up in the pan. Soon enough my ambitious plans for kitchen freedom would face the reality of adulthood and marriage. As a wife, I would need to learn cooking skills, often to humorous results.
My mother insisted that I take home economics in high school. Much of our class time, though, consisted of discussions of measurements, with very little cooking. Indeed, we spent quite a bit of our time discussing cups, tablespoons, and teaspoons, along with writing down random recipes on index cards. Our one moment in the kitchen consisted of making pizzas with mostly prepared ingredients. For some reason, though, my group ran out of time for shredding the cheese for our pizza; I came up with the brilliant idea of making up for the lack by using Parmesan to fill in the gaps. It was edible, if not exactly Italian.
Still this lack of knowledge of cooking didn’t bother me. I was going to be a working woman and so wouldn’t need such pedestrian information. Yeah, right. When I married my husband, my idea of grocery shopping consisted of buying the big box of frozen corn dogs. For the first few months, my husband and I lived off of such prepared meals. Luckily, I married a forgiving man.
Soon I would need shopping and cooking skills, however. In order to survive on my paycheck, we needed to live as frugally as possible, and that finally required me to fry up the bacon myself. I spent hours and hours reading on the internet and in books in order to obtain the information and the recipes that I would need. Unfortunately, as with my home economics class, I would soon realize that information does not always translate into ability.
For my first cooking adventures, I generally chose casseroles, usually Mr. Food’s recipes in the beginning and later moving on to recipes that I found on the internet. My husband regretfully calls this the “Summer of Casseroles.” My inexperience in cooking led to our eating every variation of tuna casserole possible–whether Mexican or Italian, with vegetables or without, and with rice or noodles. During this early time, I also learned to evaluate a recipe as I eventually realized that not all recipes are good. This would certainly apply to a Spanish casserole that I baked during this time. Although it looked good on the website, the casserole was a soupy mess due to a lack of noodles in the recipe.
I also found a rather brilliant idea in my research–making bean burritos ahead of time and putting them in the freezer. I happily purchased a truckload of ingredients and went to work on my burrito assembly line. My husband came home to witness the process with a somewhat bewildered look. After I had stuffed the freezer with my pre-made burritos, though, he realized how easy it was to grab one for lunch. We eventually grew tired of the many bean burritos, but it was a good idea at the time.
Yes, I was very inexperienced in both cooking and baking. Although I had baked muffins and cookies, I had never baked more practical items such as bread and rolls. This would take yet more research and experimentation, especially when it came to yeast bread. No-knead breads were becoming popular at that time, though, and so I was in luck. Indeed, here was something domestic that was easy; my husband certainly appreciated having fresh bread with his meals. It was only later that I learned how to make fresh bread the old-fashioned way, with lots of elbow grease and loving care.
So now that I’m middle-aged, I will wholeheartedly admit that the skills related to cooking have become my most useful. All of my knowledge of English and American literature would not be able to feed my husband and myself. I have since moved on from these cooking basics to food storage and whole wheat baking, but those early casseroles provided me with the foundation for more advanced kitchen adventures.
Marriage would have been much easier, however, if I had learned to fry up that bacon beforehand, or simply even taken an interest in it. Having a kind husband with a sense of humor—and a strong stomach—made the process of learning to cook a bit easier, though.
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves
“For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith, But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.” –T. S. Eliot
As we grow older, life seems to consist of waiting. Whether it is simply standing in line at the grocery store or anxiously anticipating the results of an important medical test, we wait. We find various ways to cope with the boredom and anxiety of these situations. Still, these forced periods of pause in our lives can provide us with some time for reflection, but only if we allow it.
This morning I awaited the return of my husband from a camping trip. Because it was a fun excursion for him, I did not worry—well, maybe just a little—but his absence caused some distress in the household. The cats were their usual selves, but little Anakin couldn’t understand why his daddy was gone. Anakin wandered from room to room, with just a brief pause to look at me, hoping for an answer. Too I found myself “wandering” a bit; I puttered around the house and eventually read a favorite book. Finally our waiting ended, and my husband swept Anakin up into an embrace and quickly took him for his usual morning walk. Peace and normality were restored.
This small period of waiting was much different from those absences that I have experienced in the past when a family member has been in the hospital. Those times were filled with stress and anxiety, along with searching for answers. There are rarely answers as to why these illnesses and accidents occur, but I at least have been able to prepare for my family member’s return and help them recover. Sometimes, though, this recovery has not happened, and I was left to wait again in the absence left after their death.
And now I wait again. With the loss of my teaching job and the tumult in the other, my life seems to be stalled as I look for jobs and hope for the next phase in my life to begin. Applying for jobs and writing for this blog and other pages, I eagerly await that call or email that will make that change happen. As I receive those “thanks, but no thanks” emails, though, I wonder if my period in life’s “waiting room” will end.
Let’s face it, waiting can be difficult. As I linger in the waiting room—or perhaps the “hallway”—I am finding that focusing on God is the only way that I can move from moment to moment, discovering the courage to continue on with my tasks even in the face of certain difficulties and those “haters” that I encounter. Searching for that small, still voice—the only constant in my life—I find some meaning. Trust, even trusting in God, has never come easy for me. However, I’m trying to keep in mind that He may have a reason for this tumultuous time in my life, and with Him by my side, I’ll be able to survive the wait.