Today, I'm interrupting your regularly scheduled adoption programming to talk about a portion of life I enjoy. I think I've been taking this little piece of happiness for granted for quite some time.
I love being in the kitchen.
Cooking isn't something I always thought I'd love. When I was first married, I really dug my feet in about spending time in the kitchen. Sure, being Chris' homemaker hero sounded great for about 5 minutes, until I actually tried making a recipe. I mean, the TIME it takes to cook. I had no idea! Even a simple casserole or salad with some chicken and special toppings can take a novice chef a few hours. (Or maybe just me... if it's just me, please just leave it alone... I don't want to know how terribly awkward I used to be in the kitchen...) Adding a few hours to my night after spending 3 hours just to commute to work in Northern Virginia was not how I imagined married life would be.
Add to that being a brand-new military wife trying to navigate my way through the commissary to get our groceries each week. The commissary can be a very stressful place for a brand-new 2nd Lieutenant's wife. The "powers-that-be" ingrain it into your little newlywed head that your husband is an officer. He is going to be a leader of Marines, so you better be a good example. They tell you things, like "don't drive faster than 1 mph in the commissary parking lot, and never wear flip flops on base. Don't chew gum, never wear jeans, get that frizz out of your hair, and if you put too many cookies in your cart, you're done." They tell you to watch how you dress, what you say, how you smile or the way you reach for things, because someone is watching you. And just when you think all is safe, you'll mutter under your breath that those d***, unbehaved, screaming kids the next aisle over better shut up, and there will be a General behind you. He will ask you your husband's name and rank, and then a stamp will go on his permanent record. Actually, not just that, they'll probably just dishonorably discharge him on the spot, because he didn't reign his wife in. And your husband will never be able to get a job again, and you'll be poor and starving, and it will be all your fault for using a four letter word in the commissary.
Alright, so maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, and I'm proud to say I've never used a four-letter word in the commissary. But seriously, this is how you feel when you walk into the commissary your first couple of months as a military wife.
Despite all these deterrents to cooking, I realized something: my husband's love language is FOOD. Not words of encouragement, physical affection, gifts, quality time, or acts of service. He literally gets fed both physcially and emotionally by eating good food cooked by me. All those other ways of expressing love are perfectly wonderful and nice, and he appreciates those, but he will never feel fully loved unless he is getting home-cooked food from me. I'm not joking. If Chris wasn't blessed with such an amazing coal-fire furnace of a metabolism, I might have found a kind, gentle way to tell him to find a new love language, but this is not the case. Besides, even if his metabolism had special needs, I could still find ways to cook healthy meals for him.
There is something wonderful about giving your spouse exactly what they need. When you see their eyes light up and you can tell they feel perfectly content and loved, really, there's no better feeling. I'm also blessed to have a perfectly grateful and merciful dinner recipient. I have botched more than my fair share of recipes, but Chris eats every single one of them with a smile and tells me "thank you". He has an amazing ability to tell me something is not his favorite while simultaneously making me feel loved and appreciated for my efforts. I think if he started cooking appreciation classes we could save marriages all over the country!
The more I cooked, the more I realized I got something out of it too. There is something incredibly relaxing about chopping vegetables and stirring sauces and not thinking about anything else. It's the kind of relaxation that you can't get by just sitting on the couch watching TV or even reading a good book. There's too much guilt associated with sitting on the couch for too long. With cooking, you feel good about yourself for accomplishing something, but it's a stress-reliever at the same time. The rest of life I'm either at work thinking about how to keep my kids stable and comfortable, and when to call the resident and when to suggest something and when to keep my mouth shut, or I'm at home thinking about when I'll get to meet Holden or what on my list of 100 things to do I should be doing to get ready for him, but when I'm cooking, all of that goes away. It's just me and my kitchen. I'm in charge, and guess what? I don't even have to listen to the recipes. I modify EVERYTHING.
By the way, when a recipe says, "clear" that means "see-through", not "colorless". You might wanna keep that in mind if you're making strawberry candy and you've been stirring it for 2 hours waiting for it to turn "clear".... just sayin'.
After you have a year or two of cooking under your belt, you can look at a recipe and say, "that way of cooking chicken will make it dry and terrible, I'll keep the ingredients but make it this way" or "Please, that is not enough siriachi and way too much coconut milk... I'll do it this way." Honestly, I get such pleasure out of modifying recipes and doing things my own way that sometimes I modify things just because I CAN. I'm nowhere close to being a gourmet cook, but for me I know I've reached the mountaintop of cooking when I can make something like this: Chicken with Olives, which includes two of my husband's most hated ingredients: onions and green olives. And he will eat it.... and he will LIKE IT. It's pretty awesome, I'm not gonna lie.
So bust out those pots and pans (measuring cups optional), play your favorite music, provide your fan-base with a little coaching on how they can best support you, and give cooking a second chance. You can do it, and you will be awesome at it, I promise!