the masks we wear

I’ve decided that I need to wear my purple Venitian Mardi Gras mask, mostly because I forgot to wear it on Mardi Gras (and thusly thrill the bible study pot luck crowd), but mostly because there it was, on the kitchen counter, asking to be worn.

It makes me think of the masks we wear.  Which you might also call denial, if you like, or simple unconciousness.  ::water for old fashioned oatmeal is finally starting to get warm, and click and clack have just reminded me that I’ve just wasted another hour on Car Talk::  It makes me think of the opening blogpost of the contemplative Cat.  It makes me think of the stories I tell about myself so often, until I finally believe them.

One of those stories is that I cannot cook.  It’s a story I tell on a regular basis.  It’s a story I believe, most of the time.  And it’s wrong, of course.  It’s a lie, if you like, but it is a lie that I believe.  It’s strengthened by all sides, because I allow it to be.

I am an impatient cook, because I don’t take time to plan my meals, and thus significantly tailor my shopping, so I don’t have what I need at any given time to make what I might wish.  I am an impulsive cook, because I don’t have many recipes memorized, even though I have access to them – say nothing of the web, I have the joy of cooking, people, and the recipes of my family and friends at my disposal.  This makes what I cook hit or miss – sometimes it’s nutritious but unpalatable, sometimes I get lucky.  I am a lazy cook, as I only have to cook for myself – it leaves me complacent, as I seem to think that I don’t deserve beautiful, interesting, tasty, nutritious food, which I know I can afford to cook, however much money I wish to spend.  I am a gullible cook, and I believe the negative things people say about me, the white space around how they treat me.  Last Thanksgiving, I made the most beautiful turkey, delicious, scrumptious, moist, and wonderful – and I made it for the clergy women’s potluck.  My family teased me unmercifully in my planning – I chose to make the turkey, not because I’d ever done one by myself before, or because I felt particularly confident, but as a labor of hospitality and love, because I’m the co-convener of the group, the host for the evening, and the brain behind the great idea of a thanksgiving feast for our gathering.  My family teased me unmercifully, because I’m the youngest, because I’ve never been asked to bring anything more than rolls or carrot sticks to our family feast days.  That is what they expect of me, and I go along with it… until I don’t.  I didn’t realize how much it hurt until the day before my early feast with my colleagues, making last minute preparations, calling around asking people what do to make their turkey moist, and combining ideas, and my eldest sister actually offered to cook the turkey for me, because she really didn’t think I could, hadn’t yet been able to convince me to change my mind, and didn’t want me to ruin my dinner.  It was very sweet of her.  It was also something else, something darker; a complete invalidation of any skills I might have managed to gain in my meanderings through adulthood.  

When chatting about it over a brilliant feast the next night, the emotion caught in my throat as I realized how much her suggestion hurt.  Several of my colleagues offered to procure signed, sealed (yes, most of us do have seals at the office) letters of reference that it was the best/among the best turkeys they’d ever tasted.

The irony was that her turkey the next day didn’t turn out that great.  But you know, that didn’t make me feel any better, or any more justified in my own pain.

Enter Easter, 2009.  My brother-in-law and his children are visiting his family.  Both of my sisters are going to be in Buffalo, and I think the middle one might actually be staying with me – not sure which guest room in which house she will avail herself of. (Hm, think the oatmeal is burning.  Note to self: do not blog while cooking oatmeal on the stove.  Hm, still tastes good, though.)  I hadn’t even thought of Easter dinner, even though now that I do consider it, I could swing it – the parish demands won’t be that extreme, I don’t think.  But as I was writing this, that sister called, the oldest one.  She met Mumsy in the grocery store and we got invited over for Easter dinner.  I was slightly disappointed at first, before reality kicked in.  There are two households that exist in this world that I will never, not ever, turn down dinner in, because I will miss the best cooked food in my life, and the best company, and her house is one of them.  Clara’s is the other.  And it will be nice not to have to cook that Sunday, after work – I might be toast.  But then I made a decision.  Spur of the moment, and I don’t think I’ll regret it.  I’m cooking dinner on Easter Vigil, for my sisters.  (And I need to get my ass to IKEA before then, because I’d like a couch for my sisters to lounge comfortably on.)

And so I realize, I’m really just one decision away from being quite a good cook.  I may not be my Aunt Clara, but that’s okay, I don’t need to be.  I’ll never be Mumsy’s Dan, but so few people can be.

But I can make a mean turkey, besides a few other things.  And really, it’s just going to get better from here.

Apparently, even when I burn oatmeal, it’s still good.


  1. As the recipient of quite a number of your meals, I would like to be the first to say that I think you’re a kick-ass cook. Some meals have been more successful than others, of course. But, that is true of any inventive cook. Inventive cooks try things – and sometimes those things fail. IMHO, the best cooks are not the ones who cook boring flawless meals every time. Rather, they are the ones who take leaps out into the unknown. And, you have always been willing to venture without a map. It’s a good thing.

  2. ::smiles::

    Thanks, Frannie. And, you know… shortly after the post, I was cleaning out the fridge, and decided to go ahead and be inventive. And I proceeded to cook the most amazingly lovely soup. It was fabulous. Carrot, Ginger, Potato, TVP soup. Gorgeous. Gorgeous soup. Lovely, in fact, to the g-degree. Which makes it gorgeous.

    ::hugs:: Thanks for the reminder.

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