There’s a saying in my family: “When Janet heads to the kitchen (that’s me), then everyone else heads for takeout.”
I’m fully convinced I could headline the “Worst Cooks in America” if I could just survive in the kitchen long enough to submit an audition tape.
Some of my culinary mishaps are the stuff of urban legend. Like the time I exploded a plate while making French toast for my friends.
I don’t mean I broke a plate. I mean it was a duck-under-the-table-shrapnel-flying explosion. Apparently, I had turned the wrong burner on. (I wondered why my French toast was still raw even as I turned the heat higher and higher.)
After that, my friends ushered me out of the kitchen, swept my floor and countertops, and called me when breakfast was ready.
I get that response a lot.
There was the time I made pudding from scratch that was so lumpy I called it chocolate chunk pudding and convinced everyone it was intentional. And recently during a family visit, my mom came down the hallway calling, “Wow, whatever those plumbers did really stinks…Oh, wait, I think that’s your cooking.”
There is, however, one culinary expertise that I possess: I make a mean bowl of Jell-O.
Ever since the great soup escapade of 2014, I decided to focus my efforts on something a little more in my wheelhouse. My attempts with powdered gelatin and boiled water have been met with wild acclaim. I no longer must ask my church family what I should bring to the carry-in.
“How about Jell-O?” they will suggest.
“Yes! We love your Jell-O! Please bring that,” another will chime in.
With such enthusiasm as that, how can I let them down?
Jell-O it is. And I am happy to report that to date, no one has been injured in either the making or consuming of my special gelatin salad. I call that a win for everyone.
All of this brings me to my reflection. When faced with obstacles as insurmountable as my cooking ineptitude, we have three paths to overcome:
Find your special niche.
I’m not ready to whip up a crème Brulé, but that doesn’t mean I can’t be successful in some small and still important part. (Who doesn’t love a colorful Jell-O?) The same is true for you and whatever obstacle you may be facing. I’m not ready to take on cooking-at-large, and you may not be ready to take on your obstacle-at large, but that doesn’t mean there’s not still a place for us at the table.
Find your spot and pull up a chair. I’ll be at the end away from the flames and sharp utensils.
As much as I hate to admit it, and I’m only going to whisper it here, I have on occasion actually used a (gulp) recipe. And the other day, I inadvertently learned how to tenderize chicken by soaking it – oh excuse me, marinating it – in lemon juice or vinegar. I haven’t tried it yet. Mine will likely taste like pickled sawdust, but my point is I learned something. There are people out there who know more than us. (Thank God!) Don’t be afraid to learn from them.
Let it go.
Sometimes, rather than climbing over obstacles, we can simply walk around them. I wonder how much time we spend fighting battles we don’t really need to fight. Take a moment to assess how important your particular challenge is. If it’s important, see number two. And if it’s not, well, I say we just forget it and go celebrate with some takeout.
Who’s with me?
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s Word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her two- and four-footed friends. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org