by Father Mark Goldasich
“Hm, that’s not right!”
In last week’s Leaven, we featured several Lenten recipes. One that I just couldn’t wait to try was the “Cheesy Potato Soup.” I immediately went out to buy all of the ingredients. After cooking the vegetables in broth for 10 minutes and sautéing the onions in butter in a large soup pot, I suddenly stopped. Rereading the list of ingredients, I realized that something was missing. Holy cow, it was flower! We’d neglected to put that in the printed recipe. For a seasoned cook like me, no problem. A quick calculation in my head and I added about 9 tablespoons of flour. I stirred in the rest and — voila — a tasty delight awaited me.
OK, let’s get real here. Anyone who knows me would immediately recognize the above paragraph as pure fiction! Did we print some Lenten recipes in the paper? Yes. Did that “Cheesy Potato Soup” look tempting? Yes. Did
I buy the ingredients and make it for myself? Not a chance!
Sad to say, the only “cooking” I do falls into four categories: 1) it comes in a can to be consumed “as is” (like fruit) or heated up (like soup); 2) it’s
a frozen meal that can be zapped in the microwave; 3) it’s eggs (I can boil or scramble those) or pasta (nothing fancy, I just add olive oil and Parmesan cheese to it); or 4) a parishioner has dropped off something delicious that I just have to heat up and eat.
Am I intrigued, though, by cooking? Yes. In fact, over 20 years ago, I wrote a column here speaking of my firm resolve to learn to cook. I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve done nothing with that intention. One line from the
first reading last Sunday seemed to be addressed directly to me: “Remember not the events of the past, the things of long ago consider not; see, I am doing something new!” (Is 43: 18-19a)
Well, that’s my task this Lenten season. I’m finally going to try my hand at cooking. It will be a great discipline for me. I’ve come to discover that the major reason I’ve not attempted to cook is because of fear. No, I’m not overly fearful of giving myself ptomaine or of burning down my duplex. Quite simply, I’m afraid that I’ll mess up. I’m fearful that I won’t be good at it. I’m terrified that I’ll come across some basic words in a recipe, have no idea what they mean and I’ll (gulp!) have to ask someone a question and look stupid.
Isn’t that silly? I’m afraid to try something that I’ve never done before because I think I’ll fail at it. Of course, I never consider that those failures
can give me experience, which in turn could make me better at what was once “new,” thus opening up all kinds of unexpected possibilities. No, I don’t expect to ever turn into a Wolfgang Puck, but I’m certain I can expand my culinary repertoire significantly and, in the process, eat in a healthier way.
I’m blowing the dust off of my George Foreman grill. I’m gathering up the long-abandoned books — “The Absolute Beginner’s Cookbook or How Long Do I Cook a 3-Minute Egg,” by Jackie Eddy and Eleanor Clark; “A Man, A Can, A Plan: 50 Great Guy Meals Even You Can Make,” by David Joachim; and “Going Solo in the Kitchen,” by Jane Doerfer. Who knows? One day, I may even have the courage to try something from “Recipes from Strawberry Hill,” by the St. John the Baptist PTO.
For a change of pace this Lent, why not try something new instead of — or in addition to — “giving something up.” Learning at least the basics of cooking has been one of the “unfinished projects” — something new
— that I’ve carried in the back of my mind for years now. Is there something unfinished in your life? Is there some spiritual book that you’ve intended to read? Have you wanted to go to a weekday Mass sometime at your parish? Have you thought about volunteering your time or donating goods to a charity? Why not use this Lent to get to that project.
Let’s get back to the food, though. Strengthening my resolve to cook
are even more tasty recipes on page 4 of this issue. Although I anticipate making some colossal failures in the kitchen, from them I hope to embrace humility. We’re not all good at every- thing we try . . . and that’s fine! But if we never do something new, we miss out on so much of life’s richness.
Wish me luck! By the end of Lent, I may even know enough about cooking to stop calling the florist to ask what type of “flower” is best to use.