One of my favorite ways to express love to the people I care about is by feeding them. Nourishing our bodies and our souls through sharing good food and good conversation is one of life’s great simple pleasures.
This explains my obsession with cooking magazines and cookbooks. Perusing pages of recipes and beautiful foodie photographs is one of my preferred ways to relax and recharge.
Even though I love to cook, I wasn’t always good at it. Twenty years ago I was a newlywed with very little cooking experience or skill. I vividly remember the first breakfast I made for my husband in our tiny apartment after we returned from our honeymoon. I burned the fried potatoes and bacon, and dried out the scrambled eggs. I can still picture his sweet twenty-three year old face, with dimples and round glasses, forcing a pleasant look on his face as he chewed the charred food on his plate. Halfway through pretending to like our breakfast, I finally said, “This food is awful. You don’t have to eat it.” He let out an audible sigh as he set his fork down and pushed his plate away, sincerely saying, “Thank you.” He also proceeded to gently tell me that he doesn’t like eggs, even well cooked eggs..
My food skills have improved greatly since then, but I’m still not a gourmet cook or a culinary artist. I don’t have a sophisticated cooking vocabulary, nor am I knowledgeable regarding fancy techniques. And I can’t just throw a bunch of ingredients in a pot – knowing how to balance acids, salt, and sweetness – and consistently end up with a wonderful result.
Nevertheless, I have still become a very good home cook. And I am intentional about developing this craft. Cooking experience has enabled me to acquire the skill of recognizing a good recipe in a magazine or cookbook. Recipes that match my abilities, use ingredients I can conveniently purchase, easily adapt to needs or preferences, and produce a pleasing result.
I still have an occasional food-fail, like recently when a meal that was supposed to be ready around 6:30 pm for the people gathered around my table wasn’t ready until almost 8p. I used a new recipe to feed a large group, haphazardly rushed through the cooking instructions, and over-crowded the pan. Simultaneously breaking three cardinal rules of home cooking.
But what could have been overwhelming and frustrating, actually became sweet and comforting as the people that I cook for regularly had an opportunity to offer needed grace and encouragement to me.
The best discovery from my cooking journey is the beauty and fellowship that multiplies from home cooked meals – regardless of the ultimate success of a dish. Cooking has become a transformational force in my life and the people around my table.
In addition to cooking for my family of 5, regularly inviting friends and family to share a meal around our table, hosting celebrations and holiday meals, taking food to friends who are sick or hurting, and making dishes for potlucks and church meetings – I also serve a community dinner to our twenty-something community twice a week.
My family shared dinner with our girls every Monday, and our guys every Thursday. It is one of the defining and most beloved characteristics of our home.
I am asked often about cooking regularly for a crowd. How do I make it work twice a week? What recipes do I use? Do I ask others to help? The answer to the last question is an enthusiastic “Yes!”. Because I think that asking the people who eat with us regularly to cook, set the table, and clean up grafts them into my family just as much as the meals.
Always remembering that “A good cook knows that it’s not what is on the table that matters, it’s what is in the chairs.”