This spring, I’ve been struggling with my writing. So, as a type of vacation from the gloom of not being able to get the words right, I’ve been spending time in the kitchen.
I’ve made loaves and loaves of peasant bread, minestrone soup, biscuits, pancakes, chocolate chip cookies, pao de queiro. I’ve spent many happy hours looking recipes, shopping for ingredients, and reading up theories about flour and the proper way to manage yeast.
But before you accept an invitation to come to my house for a meal, there is something you should know.
I am a really, truly bad cook.
It’s not just that I regularly forget to add all of the ingredients, or that I still mix up baking power and soda, or that I burn things because I always turn the stove on high so things will cook faster (although this is part of it). It’s not just that I never seem to learn from any of these mistakes (although I really don’t), or that I can fail spectacularly when making a “never fail” recipe (just try me. Seriously. Send me your best “never fail” recipe and I will screw it up beyond recognition.)
It’s just that I don’t actually care about getting it right.
Cooking is the place where I give myself permission to suck. It’s a place where I don’t care that my enthusiasm has no correlation to success. It’s a place where I never seem to improve, no matter how much I work at it. (as I write this, I am eating a slice of yeasted pumpkin bread that I just took out of the oven. The recipe said it would be a “light and airy loaf with a wonderful nutty taste.” What I’m eating is flat, dense, and tastes like soap.)
Cooking—for me anyway—is different from writing. It’s a craft where there is no room for revisions. Once the loaf of bread, or casserole, or cake is cooked, there’s no changing it. There are no second drafts. There is only the opportunity to try again later some other time.
Cooking is where I get to laugh at myself—and cooking is where I’ve learned to enjoy doing something that I’m terrible at. It reminds me that perfection isn’t what’s important in life. It's about enjoying the process.