I'm Ready to Get Married
There is this very sexist “joke” in Mexican culture about women learning to cook. Once they learn and can do it without fucking up they are then “ready to get married”
Today, ladies and gentlemen I have achieved that “wondrous” milestone.
Disclaimer: I've been cooking and baking for a long time. I'm good at it. It brings me joy, peace, and satisfaction. It makes me feel proud of myself and it's really fucking fun. I've created original recipes (before) and can follow a cookbook recipe quite easily, but for some reason I have always stayed away from traditional Mexican dishes out of fear and respect; and in the process have never considered myself a full and realized cook.
All of that changed today. (woohoo!)
I've always found traditional Mexican dishes to be quite intimidating. I know that sounds odd considering I'm Mexican, but it's true. They are very hard to get right and extremely easy to fuck up. They are demanding. They require intuitive knowledge and are not for the faint of heart. Many have tried to make “their version” of our traditional food and have failed miserably. Fools!
Today I took the plunge and did it.
My brother has been battling the common cold for a few days and I decided to make caldo de pollo for him—and it came out AMAZING! The chicken was flavorful and tender, the veggies were cooked perfectly, and the caldo seasoning was fantastic. Gosh, I'm so happy!
I started out by defrosting the chicken and cutting/washing whatever “what-looks-like-it-could-go-on-a-caldo-and-not-taste-like-shit” vegetable I could find. After a bit of tweaking here and there, finding a couple of spices to enhance the flavor, and praying to God that I had not wasted a ton of food trying to make caldo, I put a lid on the pot and let it boil.
Then I sat down and waited...and waited...and waited...
Halfway through the waiting stage I began to doubt whether it was going to cook all the way/taste good (and whether I had followed my own recipe correctly) but about a minute later the kitchen began to fill up with delicious caldo aroma and my heart soared. I had done it!
I cooked up some tortillas, cut up some lemons, put some salt and chile on the table and served it to my siblings. We loved it and ate all of it up!
While eating I started to think about all of the work I'd put into making my caldo and felt embarrassed with myself for doubting whether I could do it or not in the first place. Of course it was going to turn out well! How could it have not? I had spent so much time thinking things through, researching various recipes, and doing a whole lot of other stuff I won't mention in order to “get it right”. It would have been odd if I HAD fucked up or failed completely or screwed up even slightly somewhere along the line.
So, stranger, why did I doubt myself in the first place? I've been thinking about it all day, and I don't have an answer. It wasn't related to fear; I know that for sure. If it had been then I wouldn't have decided to take the plunge in the first place; and it wasn't extreme hunger or desperate need either. I could have made sandwiches, pasta, chicken, rice, noodles, warm soup, a salad, bread, etc., etc., etc. from scratch or made an instant soup if I had been THAT desperate to eat (or feed my siblings) right then and there.
So, why was I afraid? Why was I so nervous about fucking things up—besides the aforementioned complexity of cooking traditional Mexican dishes?
Stranger, it was love and kindness, I think. Love and kindness towards my brother (and sister, who is super encouraging and supportive when it comes to my cooking!). My brother is an asshole. A curmudgeon in every sense of the word; but he was sick and I knew a caldo would help him feel better. And I was afraid of letting myself down by not being able to help or feed him.
But it all worked out! And it helped him. Just a little bit, but it did. And I could tell he (well, both of them) appreciated it too. And that made me feel good. Really good.
Stranger, being able to create something that others enjoy—truly enjoy—is such a wonderful blessing; it is a self-gift of the purest kind. Cooking, writing stories and playing music among many, many, many other things—the feeling of wonder and magic and joy that it brings is indescribable!
Many of you who are reading this will probably laugh at this entire blurb, but for me this is a HUGE milestone. I was so afraid of messing something up, of failing miserably, that I overlooked all of the “good things” I'd done to prepare something I'd been intimidated by for a long time.
My self-expectations, however, reached new heights today and I gained a little bit more self-pride, confidence, and love. It is late and I gotta go, but I wanted to let you know about my little adventure before going to bed. I feel fulfilled. I am happy and proud and excited to have stepped out of my comfort zone. Hopefully I'll be able to do it again soon.