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You'll Thank Me for Not Cooking

Thanksgiving is the day of the year that reminds me how inadequate I really am. During the days leading up to the holiday, other people are rushing around making meal plans and buying groceries. I am doing whatever it is I do on any other day-which is not meal planning or grocery shopping.

Growing up, I'd watch the women of the family organize and orchestrate every holiday. They planned the meals, braved the insanity of food buying, set the table, and started prepping the food days in advance. The meal itself took less than a half an hour, of which they took part in maybe 15 minutes because they were busy adding last minute items to the table followed by clearing plates and getting coffee and dessert ready. They basically shoved their food down before concluding the day by washing and drying the dishes.

There are two reasons why I was witness to this process and not a participant. The first is because I was not invited in. My mom and grandma just wanted to get the job done. It wasn't a "teachable moment", a time to stop and enjoy the experience of making a meal. My mom cooked (and still cooks) because her family needed to eat not because it was a joyous time for her. Having a kid delaying the process was not an option. My job was always to set the table and dry silverware and well, that's still my job.

The other reason for not playing a bigger role in the holiday food experience is because I felt I should not have to do more than the guys were doing. I'm from a very stereotypical gender-role family. My grandma adamantly believed that women were to serve men. For years, I watched the men sit around the table, or the TV, while the women did the work. I quickly decided that the winners were the guys and I wanted to be in the winner's circle. I've stayed in that circle my whole life, shying away from the kitchen, and all of the mysteries involved with cooking. My connection to food is collecting recipes, enjoying photos of food, and well, eating.

And for that reason I have moved from the winner's circle to the being the Biggest Loser. I tried, sort of, when I got married and considered domesticated life. I could handle a stir fry or a salad. Yet, I like veggies and my mid-western spouse hates them. Stuffed squash or sauteed asparagus and Andy don't mesh well, just like Melissa and a good steak, or pancakes, eggs, chicken, pot roast, pizza, pasta, a crock pot meal, and any type of baked good. I have ruined even the most fail-proof recipes, almost so well that it is an art. Bad Art.

Having kids has both added pressure and furthered my status as a sucky chef. I have limited time to meal plan, shop, and pay attention in the kitchen. From raw eggs to rock hard pizza, I have left my family in the lurch many times. Thank goodness the girls love rolled up salami and cheese. I can roll meat and cheese.

Many people doubt my inadequacy, which is kind of them. It must mean that I am good at something else, giving them confidence in my abilities. Or they just can't imagine how someone can't bake chicken or scramble an egg.

It is true. I can't cook. Ask anyone who has made the sacrifice and digested something I have made. Put a camera in my kitchen, where you can witness me reading, and re-reading a recipe, measuring out ingredients, setting the timer, and serving something that looks like regurgitated dog food.

We are all born with gifts. Mine is not cooking. I have a lot of love to give, but it's not to a pot of chili or a souffle. So, on this day of thanks, I thank all of those who have fed me in the past, are feeding me today, and will continue giving me nourishment in the years to come. And you will thank me for asking Andy to make our contribution of the food for your next gathering.


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