Friday, February 21, 2014

domesticated animal

i am not very "domestic." a few years ago i was visiting my mom's family in kalamazoo (yes, there really is a kalamazoo ;)) after a day or two, my grandma said to me from the kitchen: "i keep waiting for you to jump in and take charge here! your mom would've stepped in and started running the show the minute she arrived." my aunts concurred. i was like, ummmm, yeah, no. don't hold your breath ladies!

i have friends and family who can whip up a three course meal for an impromptu gathering of twenty. who can toss together a breakfast casserole without a recipe while juggling babies and deftly distributing educational toddler crafts. that is so not me. i don't want anyone to come over, ever, without like 48 hours notice. if you do, you will likely survey my messy kitchen, piles of laundry, unmade beds, and a family in their PJs past noon while i sit in silent mortification. and cooking for a crowd on the fly? fuhgeddaboutit. i'd be like, um, may i offer you some alphabits? you can have your choice of cow or almond milk. of course we usually have gold fish and baby carrots and an assortment of other orange-colored snack products. i just don't do impromptu. i am not a great cook. i mean, i "cook" for my family five nights a week. but, it does not come naturally. i can't just throw things together, adding a pinch of this and a dash of that and ending up with an edible meal. wanna know what DM refers to as my "secret spices?" crushed red pepper and garlic salt. i put that shit on everything. the other 67 jars in my spice rack are just there for decoration. (incidentally, is it bad that half the time my toddler is pretending to talk on the phone, she's "ordering pizza?" the other half she's having in-depth conversations with the dog.)

further, and this is really sad for my kids and my husband, but, i would not serve most of what i cook at home to anyone other than those who are legally obligated to love me. not that it's terrible or anything (i hope). i am just not confident enough in my creations to serve them to a crowd. when i do cook for guests, it is a carefully planned affair with detailed recipes and at least three trips to the grocery store. (i also rely heavily on whomever's around - my brother, sister-in-law, etc. - anyone who does know their way around a kitchen. in fact, when my mother-in-law comes to visit, she just takes over the kitchen altogether. i have no business there.) i have about 3.5 recipes that i know people legitimately like, and i follow them to a T. even then, i get major anxiety about entertaining or potlucks or the like because i don't want to food poison anyone. also because i have always been, even before the era of pinterest, freakishly compelled to give any social gathering a theme and matching tableware. but i can happily report that the past three years, six months and fifteen days have been an exercise in lowering my standards. i mean, honestly, ain't nobody got time for that!

i was thinking about all of this in the context of friends and family going through hard times lately. i want to help them. to be there. but then i'm like, well, what can i even do to actually be of help? make some freezer meal they will politely accept and then promptly toss in the trash, because my reputation in the kitchen has preceded me?

this isn't the most apt analogy, but for some reason i keep seeing the parallels. when i was planning our wedding, a wise girlfriend of mine who had just gotten married told me, "nobody remembers the details. worry about what matters." and in retrospect, i know that that is so true. good music. good people. that's all i ever remember. i don't even really care about the food. as a vegetarian who doesn't like vegetables, i don't think i've had a single wedding meal i actually enjoyed. not even my own! (except one friend who served It's-It's and grilled cheese at midnight, yeehaw! ;)) but ANYWAY. my friend gave me this sage advice. and of course i completely disregarded it. i spent so much time and money on inane details that nobody but me and my wedding planner gave a single thought. DM always uses one particular example of my insanity in this regard: napkin rings. i insisted that we make 142 napkin rings by hand. as we sat there, night after night, stabbing ourselves with floral wire and sustaining second-degree hot glue gun burns, DM fumed. he thought it was probably the single dumbest idea that i had ever had in my entire life. he said in order to make it worth our time, twenty-seven people needed to comment favorably on the napkin rings at the wedding. you know how many people did? three. okay. i'm lying. zero. but you know how many people told us they had an amazing time at our wedding? 142.

the point being... don't stress the small stuff. nobody remembers the napkin rings or the inedible pie. (okay. that's not actually true. to this day, my dad still gives me shit about the time in high school i made a pumpkin pie for my boyfriend and forgot to put the sugar in.) but anyway. you get my gist.

you know what i am good at, though? bossing. which makes me a good handler of things. and, when needed, i can clean like a mo-fo. laundry is my biatch. i can order take-out. i can organize the shit out of stuff. i am really good at doctoring boxed cake mix and making cute cupcakes. i make a mean "get well" gift basket. oh oh oh, and OREO POPS! i am the QUEEN of oreo pops. okay. maybe just like, a lady-in-waiting. but still. if you ever need oreo pops, i'm your gal. while i do love to hear myself talk, i can also be a really great listener when the situation calls. and even though i pretend i don't know how to even open a bottle of screw-top wine when my husband is around, i'm not a terrible bartender. if you are in need of a margarita, holler. and you know what i'm starting to realize? THAT IS ENOUGH. what people need is whatever you have to give them. they need YOU. that's it. that's all. nobody cares about anything else. they really don't.

(i'm practicing in case Oprah ever needs a stand-in. what do you think? ;))

they were pretty cute though, right? ;)

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