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Cooking Muses


As I grew up, I hardly learned anything about cooking. I made macaroni and cheese, tostados and tacos a few times, and hamburger helper. My knowledge didn’t extend much further than this. My passion was definitely in the baking department, and I loved to make, as well as eat, cookies, Nanaimo bars, cakes, puddings, and loaf breads. If I’d got married straight out of high school, I think my “lucky” husband would find himself eating very meager fares. Thankfully, God had a plan to teach me how to cook.
When I went to college, I went knowing that I would be assigned a practical training job. I was open to doing anything, even cleaning toilets, but I didn’t want to be in the kitchen washing dishes. God, of course, knew better than I what I needed and that’s exactly what I ended up doing for my first year. It actually was a wonderful experience and I became good friends with many of the other kitchen workers. Then, at the end of that year, I was transferred to prep crew—the crew that preps, cooks, and serves meals for the whole student and staff body. I was a little nervous to say the least!
My first assignment was making some cut and seasoned potatoes that were to be roasted in the oven. By the end of the day I was in tears: I was running behind time and naively put the many pounds of potatoes in deep pans instead of in a single layer on sheet pans. By the time dinner rolled around, my mistake was discovered and the potatoes were NOT cooked. No, they were definitely on the crunchy side. A bunch of people on the crew helped to transfer the undercooked potatoes to sheet pans and shoved them back in the oven. I’m afraid the first batch of people that went through the serving line got potatoes that were more crunchy than roasted! I hid in the kitchen, my face rosy and embarrassed. I wanted to just use a megaphone and inform everyone that the crunchy potatoes were my fault and to please not be upset with me.
During that summer full of learning experiences, more mistakes were made, more tears fell, and I learned the value of reading completely through a recipe before starting. At times I’d get mad at my supervisor (who is now my best friend!) for not helping me exactly the way that I thought I needed help. I wanted to know how to cook everything exactly right and put the PRECISE amount of spice, or salt, or flavouring, in the dish—I was definitely the product of someone who’d grown up using exact measurements for finicky baking. But I was taught that I needed to taste everything I served and that allowances could be made. I learned a lot from my friend, Amy, who was often the one teaching me. She really delved into creativity in cooking and passed some of her wealth of wisdom on to me.
I’d like to say that because of these experiences, I’ve become a fantastic cook, but I can’t. Baking is still definitely my preference. However, I now usually can make food that is satisfactory. Good thing John got me AFTER my college days! When we lived in Syracuse, N.Y., I loved to go to the library and read recipe books. Any recipes I thought sounded good and feasible would be copied meticulously into my cooking notebook. I was surprised at some of the tasty dishes I was able to make.
But now I’m somewhere new, and man, that can really throw a cramp in my style. Baking is not an option as I have no oven, the spices are different, and lentils are the main source of nutrition. Hardly anyone I know cooks with lentils in N. America! So, once again, I’m in learning mode.
poweroutage dinnerAround three weeks ago, John and I had two Dutch men over for dinner who we’d met at church on Sunday. We approached them, as they looked European and were curious about them. They were in Hyderabad for two weeks doing IT stuff and we ate lunch out with them. Their company was very refreshing and pleasant and we wanted to share more time with them—hence, the “dinner party”. I dove right in to making the things I sort of knew how to make. The meal was, ah…, okay. The men were thankfully gracious, and we enjoyed our time together. The electricity went out, of course, so a lot of our meal was by candlelight. We then went to my favourite coffeeshop (Café Barista) and enjoyed cappuccinos together.
I find it really hard to bring people into our home when I don’t have scrumptious things to eat because of my lack of knowledge. Whenever people do come, I’m nervous and feel very humble knowing that the food I make is not up to Indian “par”. This is when I really need to accept God’s grace for me and realize that my worth DOES NOT depend on how well I cook, or keep my house, or entertain. My worth is on who I am in Christ, which really has nothing to do with me.
I do have a cookbook though and am working on learning a few tasty meals. Wanna visit? 🙂

8 Responses to “Cooking Muses”

  1. Tara Hills
    April 3rd, 2006 07:10

    I’ll be right over!!!! Oh, how I wish….Gavin and I did seriously look at our budget back in Feb with a hopeful prayer that there’d be an allowance to take a vacation to Hyderabad. 🙁 Boo hoo, there was not. And we’ll even both be in England at the same time, but not long enough. Maybe I’ll meet Aria by the time she learns to drive *sigh* 🙂 It’s ok. You never know when paths will cross again…and my preferred travel includes PEOPLE not places. I’d go across the world a few times over to bless a friend.
    Lentils are part of our fare here too…cuz their cheap and easy. Gavin learned how to make his first soup EVER here in Spain: lentil-chorizo-onion soup (chorizo is a smoked sausage). Verrrrry tasty! Nutritious and delicious:) So you’ve got one friend, no two, who do cook with lentils. I’ll see if I can find some simple (as in ingredients you have at your disposal) recipes:) Smoked sausage anyone?

  2. Rachel
    April 4th, 2006 23:11

    MMM… lentil soup. Sounds delightful! I love the idea of taking the lentils and beans from their original state instead of opening a can. Probably the tree-hugger/enviromentalist/health-food-freak coming out in me. Hee Hee. Sometime I’ll write a post of that partially hidden part of me.

  3. Tara Hills
    April 6th, 2006 10:33

    I’ll start gathering some stuff ASAP! I’m baking up some beans right now (the classic 4th of july beans). Gavin’s special request (beans and toast…a british thing apparently. Or maybe just a Hills thing). I can’t taste anything right now since I’m all stuffed up so I’ll have to just enjoy the look on his face and try to remember the flavah.
    I’ll see if I can find any non-oven baking recipes. Maybe cake in a fry pan? 😉

  4. Rachel
    April 7th, 2006 06:34

    Oh yeah! Cake in a frying pan? I love cake and have been wondering what on earth I’m going to do for Aria’s first birthday (still four months away!). Thanks for your help… much appreciated!

  5. AWHall
    April 7th, 2006 15:54

    I’ll be there shortly…once I figure out how to get there!

    I’ve been amazed at how hospitality is one of the most practical ways of loving people. And I think your comment about worth not being in recipes or meal prep is awesome – too many people get stuck on stuff like that.

    Enjoy the Kraft Dinner!

  6. Rachel
    April 9th, 2006 11:02

    Thanks for the encouragement about hospitality, Andrew. I need to hear it as too often I get caught up in the details of how well everything tastes to everyone.

  7. Rebeca
    April 11th, 2006 15:20

    Oh India! I would love to come visit and meet you! Cooking there is an adventure and a huge learning experience. I had something called a Miracle Oven that looked sort of like a bundt pan that enabled me to bake cakes and quick breads on the stove. I got it in Kathmandu but had seen them in India too. Maybe you could ask around. I was soooo happy when I got it and was able to do some baking.
    May the Lord bless you and your family. I’ve enjoyed reading your posts.
    I think we as westerners often confuse hospitality with entertaining, but there is a real difference. People are more blessed by love and peace in a home than by fancy food.

  8. Rachel
    April 11th, 2006 23:26

    Rebeca– thanks for your comment; it’s fun to know that people I don’t even know are reading what I write. Weird too, if ya know what I mean. I enjoy your blog too!
    That Miracle Oven sounds like just that– a miracle! I’ll have to keep my eyes open.
    Thank you for the encouragement regarding hospitality differing from entertaining. When I stop to think about it, I realize that when I go to someone’s house, the love and peace are ultimately more important than what we supped on. Thank you for reminding me of this as when it comes to my own home, I forget to think this way and spend the whole meal worrying that my guests think it sucks and are only eating to be polite!

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