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.