Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time, there was a girl. She loved to cook. She loved to eat. Se loved to dine.

When the girl got married, she lovingly cooked dinner for her husband, nearly every night. She delighted in making grocery lists and menus. She tried new dishes and experimented with different ingredients every week.

And dare I say, she was a fabulous cook? Her meals were delicious, rich, and enjoyable. And each stir, chop, baste and broil -- done with love and care. Not only did she love the food she worked with, she loved serving it and watching others enjoy it.

She enjoyed eating too! Soon, she became schooled in wines and how to pair them with food, and she delighted in pouring a glass to sip and savor while eating a lovely meal with her husband or whomever she had cooked for.

The secret that the girl kept to herself (most of the time), was that cooking was never work for her; never did it feel like a chore. When life got her down, or minor stressors of the day wore her out, she cooked. When she was sad, or feeling lonely, she cooked. When she was bored, or needed a creative outlet, she cooked.

In about 9 years, this "foodie" girl would be a mother to 4 young children. She'd always longed to be a mommy, to have babies with the love of her life; and she was living her dream.

But a love for cooking and babies do not coexist. They simply cannot. She did not know this. She still tries to make menus, between scoldings and naps. But most of the time no menu is made; and new recipes are no longer a luxury. She abides by what is tried and true. Even so, no meal is made and eaten laudably. The little diners voice their concerns and discontent without hesitation. They are not intrigued by delicate herbs, and they don't seem to appreciate the sear of the meat. Don't they know, color is flavor? Or is color instead poison, and she was the one who had been misinformed?

Once upon a time, wine was an intentional addition to a meal. Now, a glass is poured while the cooking ensues, as the baby pulls her legs and cries to be held. She doesn't take the time to swirl and smell, instead she sips...sips...sips some more, and cuddles the baby after the pan is deglazed and the butter is no longer spatting. Cooking has become a mixture of stress and fear. Fear of kids getting burned, stress that the meal will burn while she races to save the baby from consuming the cat's food, more fear as the little ones make loud noises upstairs and she worries for their safety as the food sizzles and she must choose between overdone root vegetables and her children.

She still loves to cook. If you ask her, she will say so. But cooking is not what it used to be, and neither is eating. She serves all, makes a quick plate, then there is a call for drinks, and she gets the drinks too. They don't care whether their milk pairs well with their pasta. She finally sits, maybe nurses her baby while gingerly balancing a bite over her child (fear -- is it okay to eat hot food over a baby's head?) and into her hungry mouth.

Her husband, the love of her life, is always pleased with the meal, but often adds extra salt. And she wonders if it was because she had to fish cat food from the baby's cheek when she would have otherwise been testing the dish for flavor. But all is well, because she always gets a kiss, and a thank you, and a compliment. He knows it's harder now, than it used to be. He remembers, too, the romantic meals with ambiance and eye contact. But he's grateful that she still cooks, and she still tries to get creative when she otherwise might be calling for take-out, because she knows something...

One day the kids will be grown, and cooking will be easy and maybe fun again, and romantic meals may not be so hard to come by. And the babies will be gone. And there will be no more complaints from picky palates; but there will also no longer be silly giggles, and baby snuggles, and washing little hands, and a sense of accomplishment when they all liked dinner and ate it. And life will be quiet again. And cooking will be fun again. But the kids will be gone.

And the Once Upon a Time Girl will be older, and the story of the past will be the story of how once dinner was complicated, and cooking was a struggle, and babies were under foot, and life was crazy and equally wonderful. And she will miss it. So all the mess, and stress, and fear, and ungratefulness, and under-seasoned entree, and balancing of baby and bite, it's all worth it.

Because this is her life, this is her dream come true.