food, romance and creating things you’re proud of.

Between attending culinary school and working in high-end restaurants and hotels to put himself through college, my beau has clocked well over 10,000 hours in the kitchen. I, on the other hand, have not. Since most of my “culinary experience” (also known as episodes of Chopped and re-runs of Anthony Bourdain) lives in my DVR, he does the majority of the cooking for both of us.  But this Friday, it is my turn.

You should know that we have tried this before. It was so stressful and I had a broth incident that I can only describe as “too much, too soon”. My sauteed shrimp pasta spinach thing was not good and I became a total buzzkill. Very few things irritate me more than creating something that I am not proud of.

You should also know that I have no anxiety cooking for myself; the anxiety only comes with an audience of this magnitude. I love that people are beginning to publicly acknowledge the prickly relationship between food and romance.

While you are knowing things, you should know that I am an ENFJ, which makes me a potent combination of committed and ambitious. Committed because I am pre-wired to want to practice 10,000 hours to begin with, and ambitious because I often I attempt things out of order. Like when I started going to college when I was a senior in highschool.

These traits serve me well in the workplace. The kitchen is more humbling. (sidebar: here is the link if you would like to take the test yourself. Trust me, understanding your personality’s limitations makes navigating new environments more approachable)

Anyway, all week I have been coming home from work and practicing pieces of the meal that I am planning on serving Friday. Yesterday was sauce day. Sauces are especially difficult for me because the order is very rigid and there’s no room for my ambitious skipping.

First, I add the shallots and let them sizzle. Then I add the garlic but the pan is too hot and it scorches. I press forward by carefully adding the broth and then fishing the really burnt bits out. Then comes the flour and the cream.

Then comes the chemistry…

I forgot to mention that it is 9:30pm and I am on the phone with the Mister. I am asking about his day (and trying to whisk lumps out of my roux at the same time) when he complains that the scraping sounds like a train is passing through his earbuds.

“What the hell are you doing?”

“practicing a sauce!!”

“Do you want to just call me back when you’re done?”

See that rhetorical question right there? He is great a subtly advocating focus in my life. ENFJ’s need that.

I comply and hang up, gaining the headspace I need to make the practice more perfect. It doesn’t help at all because the sauce still ended up being a fail.

Here is what I realized: the cornerstone to creating things that you’re proud of is not perfection, it’s honesty.

The truth is, even with 10,000 hours of practice, we cannot be good at everything. It’s a vain hope. Your genes don’t fit. Understanding your personality’s limitations makes navigating complex tasks more approachable. Having the wherewithal to figure out how to work through challenges in a way that caters to your strengths is empowering.

I call him back with intentions to bait his expectations so that I can temper them accordingly.  As we are talking, he is lamenting about some of the poor food choices he’s making while he is traveling for business. I decide the scrap the sauce, add a veggie instead, and I begin to tell myself a new truth that I am proud of.


9/11/2013 – On Spectating, Storytelling and Spirituality

I just finished reading “Daring Greatly” by Brene Brown. The book was inspired by Theodore Roosevelt’s famous ‘it’s not the critic that counts’ speech. In it, she talks about this “social climate of scarcity” and our tendency to define things by what they are not.

“Scarcity,” she says “thrives in a culture where everyone is hyperaware of lack”. Not a material lack, but a psychological one. We live in a culture where we are constantly worried about not being good enough. We are always striving, but always finding ourselves lacking (“I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough”).

She goes on to stress the importance of vulnerability and experiencing life with your whole heart. It’s all very fascinating. ‘Dare greatly’ is such an eloquent way to say “let your haters be your motivators”.

But I must say, the most interesting part about her research  is not her conclusions, it’s the timing. She started her research right around 9/11 and says she watched the scarcity epidemic get progressively worse throughout the years…

9/11 was traumatic on levels that we can’t even acknowledge yet. We never recovered and we never healed.  It made us scared. It made us snarky. The impact of a fear epidemic is now so embedded into our culture, it’s showing up in our schools. Brown calls society’s subconscious depreciation a “collective PTSD”. And really, it makes me wonder about the consequences of long-term unresolved trauma.

I know about long-term unresolved trauma. In fact, I used to write about it. 

Every time I used my writing as a means to heal instead of to enhance some professional goal, somebody reminded me that I shouldn’t be so selfish in public. ‘The stakes are too high’, they said. ‘What if someone googles you?’, they said. So I stopped writing and I wasn’t selfish anymore. I actually spent the majority of 2009, 2010 and 11 being “unselfish” (and picking up some other bad habits while I was at it).

By the time I met my (now) boyfriend in 2012, I hadn’t made myself care in a long time.

When we met, we were both pretty broken. Hello, instant attraction! LOL. Luckily, he was at the point in his life where he only wanted authentic, genuine connections with women. And I wanted to care again. I wanted the ability to notice again. I realized I had turned it off.

Robyn and I joke that we only have the ability to fall for extraordinary men – this one was no different. He didn’t want to just be entertained by me, he wanted to be inspired by me. I wanted that, too.

We worked together to become each others muse. Every day he looked at me like I was art, until I realized I was…

I will forever be thankful to him.

This weekend, for my birthday, I got to watch a professional storyteller at the Wren’s House Museum here in Atlanta. She performed the story of Brer Fox and the Tar Baby and she was FANTASTIC – it was such a great surprise! In her introduction, she mentioned that the reason she continues to tell these stories to children, even in 2013, is because she recognizes the importance. She honors the courage of storytellers and proudly carries the tradition so their high stakes are never in vain.

I am so proud to be a descendant of such a rich history of storytelling. Granted, the stakes are different – but the goal remains the same. Our children are sick. Our boys  are not learning and our girls are not leaning. We need more kairos moments.

Last night, I was thumbing through the pages of 15+ years worth of journals and was reminded of what I’ve always known, even as a child: the thing that drives me to write things down is bigger than me.

In one of my annals, I find this quote, “You can’t just be a spectator. Find something to give to God because he keeps finding things to give to you”…

And I start this blog.