I'll be the first to admit that I'm probably overly confident about a lot of things, which, at times, has gotten me into a heap of mess; "I can absolutely ski this off-piste densely timbered vertical drop." I might regret my decision halfway through when I've hung myself up in a tree and lost a pole somewhere along the descent, though I always seem to make it out alive and, whether it's a blessing or a curse, more confident on the other end.
This personal attribute I thank my father for; the play-before-work adrenaline junkie who still surfs as hard as the groms and enjoys flying his plane to uncharted islands off Mexico to jump in the water and hold his breath to surface having speared a fish twice my size. Whilst traveling through Vienna I stumbled across an old statue of Poseidon, triton in hand, in an elaborate fountain. I texted him the image to which he responded, "they really got my abs right, don't you think?" I couldn't even be irked.
My dad taught me to be tougher than the boys, because when the fish are biting it doesn't matter that the open sea looks like a scene from the perfect storm. We're going; just don't puke near my reels. His inspirational prep talk before sending my 12 year old self into surf competitions went like this; "get mean. Which bad words do you know? Can you make some intimidating faces? Show me. Kill those girls. Surf hard."
Though my dad hadn't the slightest clue about the sport, his gutsy die-hard attitude transferred to my riding as my trainers would all agree that my number one question was "can we jump big and go fast today?" If the surf wasn't pumping dad might watch my shows and proceed to embarrass the butterflies out of me with his unsolicited and ever-audible rail coaching using the only lingo he knew; "check your withers, your forelock is OFF!!! Post the jump, Lo, and tighten your diagonal. GIVE ME MORE LEAD CHANGE!!!"
So, while you will be hard pressed to find a girl who will ski faster, surf harder, ride stronger, or ever let the boys do it better, there is one thing that sends me into tail-between-my-legs fear and bullet sweating anxiety trips; cooking. Ill sooner spoon feed Jaws than take on the kitchen.
Oh, the lengths I have gone to avoid cooking. I think I survived eight months of my college career on baby carrots, hummus, and chocolate. And while I'll agree that maybe there are more wholesome options, I was thriving. So I don't see what the big deal about a home cooked meal is, but given that I would like to be able to feed the people I care about someday I've taken it upon myself to learn. And it's been... An experience.
I'm convinced I could set up a webcam and stream my cooking excursions live on a YouTube channel called "How to Boil Water” cause that's about the point where success comes to a screeching halt. I'm sure people would get a kick out of watching just how wrong it can go. When it's my turn to make lunch for the family here I usually begin with Hail Mary's and a sacrificial offering to the culinary gods, and while I haven't burned the kitchen down I'm not yet convinced I'm out of the woods.
It goes like this. The day before I must cook I stew in denial and actively avoid thinking about it until I must. And then, in a hot frenzy, I call my BFF Pinterest because she usually pumps me up with dreams of greatness and splendor.
Let me be clear. Pinterest is a bitch.
She's that perfect friend who never has to work out and has a body I would literally have to diet on the spores of the air for. You go over to her house and it smells like whatever season it may be because while her candle display is never outdated she has just whipped up the most gourmet meal. Which is also organic, gluten free, and vegan, in case you were wondering. Her wheat free sugar free stevia snickerdoodles actually taste like snickerdoodles. She's the friend who will convince you that you can do something so outrageously out of your league and then snicker a-la “Mean Girls” with her confidant Etsy while you set off in blind grinning ignorance towards failure. She's the friend I hate to love, but I just keep going back for more.
Back to cooking.
Pinterest and I have just had the best heart to heart. My checklist is ready and the recipe is in hand. I must boil the potatoes. Ok. Water in the pot. Check. Stove on. Check. Potatoes ready. Check. But, do I wait for the water to boil or put them in now? Do I add salt simultaneously? How do I tell when garlic is done simmering? Too late, it's burned. Ok. It's ok. Do it again. Am I doing this right? Shit, potatoes are ready! Or are they? How soft is too soft? Two more minutes should do it.
Two minutes later.
I'm panning for chunks of flour in the soup because I missed the memo that two tablespoons had to be mixed with milk prior to entering soup. Who knew… Check the potatoes. Potatoes are for sure way too soft. Shit. Walk across kitchen. Slip on water. Fall. Remain on floor. Try not to cry. Call boyfriend. Actually cry.
"Honey... I think I ruined the potatoes I don't know what to do"
Honey, at work... "It's ok just make mashed potatoes instead."
…Brilliance. I knew there was a reason I kept him around.
Call BFF Pinterest.
Pinterest; "omg, girl, I just had this funny feeling you were going to call...!"
*Mouths to Etsy with a giggle "it's her!!"
Me *oblivious; "so I'm looking for some basic mashed potato ideas..."
And this is how it goes, no lie. Until at the end I've created something that is never what I intended to make and borderline edible, hopefully.
Fortunately for me my support team is ever enthusiastic about my efforts. Babe raved about my mashed potatoes, which, I'll admit, made me feel like I accomplished something big and towards the betterment of my people. So, while he can expect a call every afternoon to drag me from the pits of culinary inadequacy, I am getting better and enjoying it, much to my bewilderment.
Food here is a much different thing than it is at home. Meat comes straight out of the yard; chicken, pork, lamb, and sometimes beef, and while I struggle in the kitchen I am a force to be reckoned with in the garden. I will make raked dirt look like the Taj Mahal. Weeds fear me. I will frolic around the greenhouse, spade in hand, and make the Troll in Centeral Park look bad, or… worse than he already does.
There is something grounding about watching seeds take root and animals grow in a healthy environment void of chemicals and hormones and all of the pressures of western culture. At home we have commercialized health into pills and magic bars and microwave packs, and while the convenience is a luxury, I will never agree that greater health can be achieved in this way.
Though learning to cook may be a slippery uphill battle for me, adapting to this lifestyle and reaping the benefits has been more rewarding than I ever could have anticipated. My energy levels (as if they needed any more bolstering) are higher than they have ever been, and I carry out my days with a mental clarity I have never before experienced. Which is great, because I will need all of this vibrancy in learning to throw daggers and shoot a bow off the back of a horse so I can venture homeward to the land of Costco and TV Dinners having achieved something that my Dad CANT do.
In summation, while my Dad may have never been home to cook a meal for, I’m learning to adapt the traits I did glean from him to better the health of myself and those around me, which, Ill admit, is pretty cool. Maybe not “check out the wave I caught whilst flying my plane with one hand and spearing a fish with the other” cool, but cool in its own grounded, humble, nurturing, and heart-filled ways.