I’m not a bad cook… I’m just not a cook at all.
I don’t try.
I don’t attempt.
I stay near the toaster where I’m comfortable and then skedaddle out of the kitchen before I’m found out.
But it’s not because I hate food. On the contrary, I absolutely love food. My memory is deeply connected to my taste buds, remembering moments by their flavors and the coffee that warmed my insides.
When Kelsey and Michelle and I talk about Europe, we mention it in terms of meals: the gnocchi in Rome, the crepes in Paris, the dumplings in Munich, delicious.
I can tell you exactly what I’ve eaten on every one of my birthdays, and I am pretty sure that great restaurants are my love language.
This year, however, God has been teaching me something new, and it all centers around the table.
There’s something profound to the table, he’s showing me, (a girl who eats the majority of her meals on her desk, on her bed, or at her coffee table while lounging on the couch), whispering gently that there’s something I’ve been missing out on.
My poor mom lost the battle of the table in our family. Each one of us is a picky eater in our own right turning my mother into a short order cook: chicken fingers for you, cereal for you, macaroni for you.
We gave up on the table—only now beginning to reconvene around the wooden expanse that’s graced our dining room—lonely for all those years.
Carl, God bless him, is a fantastic cook. The first time he made his BBQ chicken tacos for me, I swear I nearly passed out. And his gourmet grilled cheese brings me to tears every single time.
And somewhere along the line, I became his sous-chef. I chop and mix and stir, and clean up while he’s doing something impressively complicated. I follow his instructions and get to be a part of whatever masterpiece he’s just cooked up.
But I’ve never made anything on my own—not really. Until I did.
We were making dinner together, or at least we were supposed to be. But in the few minutes before he showed up at my door, I decided to get a head start and boil a pot of water. I boiled the water, and with a few extra minutes, I tossed in the ravioli. And then, on a roll, I turned on another burner and poured some olive oil in a pan and placed a few pieces of crisp, green asparagus in the oil. A delicious asparagusy smell soon filled the apartment.
I cracked a bottle of wine and took a sip as I slid a knife through fresh mozzarella and tomato, arranging it on a plate and drizzling it with a balsamic reduction. Soon the ravioli was finished and I heated up some pasta sauce, drizzling the whole beautiful mix onto the clean white plates right as he walked through the door.
I hadn’t meant to cook, but I did.
All by myself.
I beamed throughout the meal, eyes shining as he savored a bite of the ravioli, proudly kissing me on the forehead.
Something in me stood up a little straighter after that meal—feeling accomplished and like a real, grown-up woman.
There was something powerful in making food with my own hands, and putting it on the table to nourish someone I love. And we definitely ate at the table. Not on the couch.
A few weeks later, still giddy from my first culinary success, Carl and I were talking about the things that happen around the table. We want to host parties and cook for our friends, but we rarely seem to find the time.
And so within a few hours, we had a small guest list compiled, and assignments handed out to everyone. Daniel brought the ice cream, and Lacee and Ryan made an apple pie that had all of the boys lingering in the kitchen impatient for it to cool. Josh and Bri brought the wine, and soon our kitchen was filled with laughter and conversation and friends.
My job was the pasta, and this time Carl was my sous-chef.
We worked together to lay each layer of cheese, and sour cream, and pasta and sauce, before carefully sliding the dish in the oven to bake.
When the timer went off, we pulled out the dish and brought it to the table with a spatula big enough for the hearty comfort food.
And to my complete amazement, it was good. Not just a little bit good, but really, really good! And I actually made it. I picked out a recipe, found the ingredients and made it.
And it was good!
The night was far from perfect. There were too many of us for our small table, and our kitchen was missing some of the key items that got lost in the midst of our move.
It was imperfect and we were imperfect and it was one of the best nights I’ve had in a long time.
It was community—people who care about each other, who are getting to know each other better gathering around a meal. It was nourishment—oohing and ahhing as the comfort food wrapped around us like a warm blanket.
It was warm and inviting and our faces glowed under the café lights strung overhead.
And that was the first time I experienced the beauty and the total lack of perfection necessary to make something really fantastic happen around the table.
Do you cook? What have you seen happen around a table?
Baked Ziti : Food.com
– 1 lb dry ziti pasta
– 1 onion, chopped
– 1 lb lean ground beef
– 2 (26 ounce) jars spaghetti sauce
– 6 ounces provolone cheese, sliced
– 1 1/2 cups sour cream
– 6 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded
– 2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; Add ziti pasta, and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes; drain.
2. In a large skillet, brown onion and ground beef over medium heat; Add spaghetti sauce, and simmer 15 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).
4. Butter a 9×13 inch baking dish.
5. Layer as follows: 1/2 of the ziti, Provolone cheese, sour cream, 1/2 sauce mixture, remaining ziti, mozzarella cheese and remaining sauce mixture; Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
6. Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until cheeses are melted.