My mother turns 70 years old today. To say she hates celebrations would be a grand understatement. For weeks now, she would not tell us how she wanted to celebrate, and as of last week, she ordered me to never ask again. The truth is, she deserves a superb celebration, but something low key and meaningful. I decided I would cook us a feast. Now, I was raised in a house where my father cooked all day, every day. It was his passion. I have an underlying skill set, but it is surely out of practice. Yesterday morning, I had a coffee date with my new cookbook, Joanna Gaines’ “Magnolia Table” and built the following (ambitious) menu:
- Roasted Cauliflower Soup
- Roasted Brussel Sprouts with salt, pepper, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar (my own creation)
- Scalloped Potatoes
This was most definitely my “Play of the Week.” In reading our Monday Post, I really wanted to try to challenge myself. I teach my students to “step out of their comfort zone,” but how often do we do that as adults? I knew there was only one attitude to take: calm and collected. I braved the aisles of the grocery store on a Saturday at noon. Though one could see this as a mistake, I chose to view it as just a more challenging level in my “Play of the Week.” I used my carefully-organized grocery list and navigated my way to my items and then to the checkout line. Off to the kitchen we went, and the real craziness began.
Dinner was planned for 7:30 PM. I had other work to do and did not begin until 5:15 PM. I had a little more than two hours to prepare the menu. The first task was to create an easily accessible inventory of necessary tools, pots, and pans I then started prep work for the soup, meatloaf, and potatoes: chopping, roasting, measuring, preheating. I then made those three items simultaneously, because they required the same amount of prep and cooking time. This I had never done before. It felt like trying to conduct an orchestra of varying instruments. My efforts to clean as I went, diminished within the first 45 minutes. Thankfully, my husband stepped in as lead dishwasher. Brussel Sprouts came last, and I enjoyed the element of improvisation they brought. The other recipes required exactness.
Thankfully, the food turned out okay! Clearly, it was a miracle. My mom loved it and my husband even ate the vegetables. I accredit the recipe’s success to my careful measuring of ingredients, my precise heating and timing, and my choosy selection of ingredients. What I found most challenging was keeping clean as I went. When one cooks a singular recipe, cleaning is simple. When there are four recipes in rotation, it is in no way simple to keep clean! I am so glad I challenged myself because it built my confidence to cook again! This “Play” was engaging and purposeful. I was actually fighting through a challenge to produce a result — celebrating my mother’s 70th birthday. It is so important for children, adolescents, and adults to take time to “play”. Experiencing challenge, failures, and triumphs brings out our truest selves.