Failing in the Kitchen

April 7, 2020

Kitchen failures happen. It’s simply the reality of life when we cook. My very wise macrobiotic cooking teacher once told me that for every great dish there were 100 disasters. That may be a bit of an exaggeration but you get the idea. Life in the kitchen can be humbling for the best of us so if you suddenly find yourself weeks into cooking three meals a day for the family (or yourself) in an attempt to keep up social distancing, you know that not every dish is worthy of a James Beard nomination.

We work harder now to find beauty, pleasure and even satisfaction in food and cooking. We are so long into the self-isolation that still remains the best bet to put COVID-19 behind us, not just here at home but globally. It’s harder to find joy and maybe that’s ok.

I have to say, as a cancer survivor, I grow weary of Instagram influencers (whatever they are) and celebs telling me to celebrate joy every moment of every day during these uncertain times. Really? Every minute? Personally, I draw my strength from the surreal piece of my life when I had cancer so many years ago. Believe me, I wasn’t worried about finding joy in each moment. Some days I wanted to curl up and die. And it was okay to feel that way. I was fighting for my life every minute of every day as so many still do today.

America seems to have an addiction to that “ra-ra” spirit that causes us to chant “USA” over and over at events. Well, as great as we are, I’m here to tell you that it’s okay to hit a wall and be terrified. I don’t let myself wallow in it, but I think it’s only human to feel un-nerved for a little while even on the best of days now.

I find beauty and comfort in my kitchen; I always have. When I was cooking to recover from cancer, I knew the answer was at my stove, even on my bad days. And I know the answer to strong immunity is right there too. I have always found my joy in the kitchen and not the silly unicorn and rainbow kind of joy, but the ‘I am saving my ass by cooking’ kind of joy. I think that we all can, if we allow ourselves the brain bandwidth to do it.

To cook with what we have in the pantry and whatever fresh or frozen ingredients we have on hand taps into our creative genius…and we all have that. No one is pressing you to get to soccer practice or Little League or meetings or…or…or… Part of that saddens me, because it reminds me of our loss, but part of it makes me happy as it frees you to discover or re-discover the joy of cooking for those you love and you.

Now more than ever, we need to cook as though our lives depend on it because they do. Ditching junk food and, take out (as much as I love the idea of supporting local restaurants, please bail on the big chain junk food take out…you know the ones), meat, chicken, eggs and dairy and you can proactively cook to create a strong immune function with whole grains, beans, vegetables nuts, seeds, fruit and good fats.

I am reminded of so many pharmaceutical ads that use the disclaimer that taking this drug or that for various lifestyle diseases can “lower your ability to fight off infections.” And while we need access to medicine (and medicine will likely play a huge role in bailing us out of this current mess), don’t we agree that if we lived healthier lives and ate healthier foods, we might give our immune systems a leg up? Maybe we wouldn’t need quite so many drugs?

In the end, we are all missing our friends and loved ones more than anything else. I know that’s true for me. Cooking is something I do daily, usually three times a day. And I adore my husband and I love my little home. It’s our sanctuary. We have worked from home for years so that’s not new for us. What is new is this bizarre new way of being with those we love. There’s only so much Face Time, Skype and Zoom a person can take. I want be with my people, hugging and kissing and being together in the same place, at the same table.

So cook. Cook and play and fail, but cook. Your life depends on it. And in the end, you’re doing just fine. We all are.