Catherine Gracey

Living Life, One Misadventure At A Time.

Back In The Kitchen

on April 6, 2014

Things hadn’t been going well between us, so I decided that Thursday would be a perfect time to extend a peace offering. It was my day off work so that I could go to uni, and I decided that instead of spending my afternoon studying I would spend it in the kitchen. I was in there for quite some time, blending fresh ingredients and spices to create a new taste for dinner. The table was set, an atmosphere had been created, and I was determined that this would be an evening where we could set aside our petty differences and focus on the good parts of our marriage.

When my husband came home from work, he seemed oblivious to the scene I had created. He went straight past the table, where dinner was waiting for him, sat down on the couch and turned on the Wii. After grinding my teeth for a few seconds I decided to be an adult, so I picked up our meals and put them on the coffee table. I sat beside him on the couch and watched him play his game for a little while. Eventually I asked if he was going to eat his dinner.

“I don’t like it,” he said.

“How do you know that?” I asked. “You haven’t eaten any.”

“I could smell it from the front door.”

“Could you at least try it?”

He took a single forkful. His eyes never left the television as he chewed. “Still don’t like it,” he said when he swallowed it. Then he got up, went into the kitchen, and made himself a milkshake.

In that moment, my desire to put in effort took a beating. I had spent more than a year listening to criticism after complaint after whinge about my cooking. If it didn’t come from a packet, he didn’t want to eat it. The hours I had spent tirelessly sourcing fresh and healthy foods, the hours I spent in the kitchen while he was relaxing, and the towers of dishes that he wouldn’t help me with finally took their toll.

Several years have gone by since that moment with my husband. I gave up on my marriage. I gave up on trying hard in the kitchen. I finally believed that I had no cooking talent, natural or otherwise, and that I was better off not exposing myself to the constant ridicule that I expected to receive. Other people reinforced this negative belief by telling new partners that I was incapable of cooking anything, and it didn’t help when those stories came back to me. Ever error was magnified beyond sense or reason, held up as further proof of my inadequacy.

My current partner has never known me as someone who spends time in the kitchen. He has always been the cook in our relationship. Contributions from me have consisted of a single, highly complicated recipe that I came up with before the incident with my husband, and things that could be made straight from the packet. It was easier to contribute to the relationship in other ways than to open myself up to the same, tired old insults that my husband would happily supply.

For the first time in a very long time, I am finally back in the kitchen of my own volition. I have once again abandoned the safety of my cookbooks and my packet foods. I am blending things, tasting as I go, and hoping for the best.

Cooking new things has been a confronting experience. Each time I tell my partner that I have made something it feels as if I am exposing myself to a significant emotional threat. Despite all the stress, my fears have been unfounded. He loves my cooking. He makes a point of telling me that I need to write down my recipes before I forget them. He asks me to cook things as soon as the previous batch has run out. Snacks where I think I don’t quite have the balance right are devoured as soon as I stop guarding them. I might not be convinced of their quality, but he certainly is.

I am sad about all the years that I spent telling myself that I was a lost cause, that it was better to give up before more people knew how useless I was. I am sad that I let the vicious words of one person shape my opinion about my worth. All of the times when I could have enjoyed the kitchen with other people have been lost to negative experiences where I withdrew and hid from their potential cruelty.

So far my adventures in the kitchen have included soups, cookies and ice creams. There is a long list of things that I would like to try once I find the right ingredients. Every success is a new shield against my old belief. I just need to keep this momentum up, until I either change my belief or I can no longer fit into my pants.

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