I come from a typical Black-American family filled with competitive and hilarious spirits. That means there is NOTHING in your life that they won’t joke about. My father liked to joke about my failures. He thought it would make me stronger, instead it made me retreat from anything I knew I could not best.
Cooking is one such thing. My mother made sure I had dinner on the table every single night. To me, she was an amazing cook. To her nine older siblings, she was the worst cook out of the bunch. They always joked about her culinary skills and my father made sure to join in on the “fun.” He often told me I would never find a husband because I couldn’t cook. I took this all to heart and simply withdrew from preparing food. I learned to do the basics so I would not die. That’s it. I couldn’t pour my heart and soul into something and have people laugh at it, and I certainly did not want a man who based his love on my abilities in the kitchen. In my mind, I had so much more to offer. Heck! I had a college degree and a career, honey!
Now keep in mind, I have always LOVED food. I enjoyed and excelled in Home Economics class. I marveled at my Aunt who could taste something fantastic at a restaurant, deconstruct it in her mind and cook her own version of it for us at home. But I chose to withdraw from it all because I feared the one bad result that would make me, once again, the butt of a joke.
My husband married me despite what I considered to be his mother’s considerable concerns about my lack of skills in the kitchen. The first ten years of our marriage consisted of his home-cooked food and my selection of delectable takeout meals.
One day, I decided I needed to toss my fears out of the window. I would never make the perfect southern soul-food cuisine. That’s not me, but I wanted to make something. I wanted my husband to know I cared about him, his health and what he consumed. Plus, I was out of work and I needed to earn my keep.
My former and favorite boss always told me that if I could read, I could cook. Humph! In my culture, cooking is an innate talent. You can’t read it. You have TO DO IT. It’s IN you. I just felt it wasn’t IN me. However, I had to start somewhere. So I started scouring the internet for simple recipes. One thing led to another and I was making dinner for my husband on a regular basis and LOVING IT.
About 11 months later, my son came home and I finally understood a coworker, who I thought was a bit strange, told me about the joy that filled her heart when she fed her children food she made with her hands. All of sudden, I wanted to really work on my cooking. I found joy in feeding my family.
I started working hard to put aside fears. Instead of saying, “Ive never eaten that before” or “That seems difficult,” I started trying. Heck, I’m making my son’s baby food.
I’ve had some bombs, like the time I threw in parmesan when I should have been tossing in flour. There’s also the time my baked meatballs were raw, and the moment I couldn’t chew the beef in my beef stew because it was overcooked. BUT! No one laughed at me and if they had, it would not have killed me.
Without realizing it, I started conquering a fear. I still won’t cook for my parents, but I’m making strides. I hope tackling this fear will lead me to take on many more. I’m tried of fearing fear. I want to blaze a trail that my son can see so he’ll know it’s possible to blaze his own.