June 4, 2013

the picture in the cookbook

There's a scene from one of my favorite television series (RIP Judging Amy) where a young girl tries to bake a cake. Disappointed by the sloppy results, she cries, "It doesn't look like the picture in the cookbook." 

Her mother tries to console her, "Oh honey, it never looks like the picture in the book."

It's a brilliant moment, clearly referencing more than just baked goods.

My kitchen.
I get it.

The picture in my book looked like this: degree from prestigious college, amazing New York apartment, fabulous life as an obscure but well-received writer. 

We won't dwell on what the very much altered reality is. It's different. Not what I had planned. Let's move on. 

It's never been my strong suit but I'm teaching myself how to focus on the positive. High blood pressure at 28 isn't fun, so I've decided to at least try to look at the glass as half full.

Cooking has helped with that. Because I'm not able to work on the books until the Immigration Powers That Be grant me a visa, I've had to find creative ways to stay busy each day. I spend hours Googling and reading up on domestic quandaries, such as how long and at what temperature to steep oolong tea for;  the difference between jam and preserves, and how to get blood out of a white towel. Now that we have a dog I take her for walks and snap photos of her while she sleeps. I shake out the rugs on the patio. I coordinate our shoe closet according to ROY G BIV. 

But cooking has helped more than anything else. I've always been fascinated by chefs on TV, how they can flick their wrists and send perfectly sauteed onions soaring through the air before catching them in a pan, all while keeping one eye on the bundt cake in the oven and shouting clever catch phrases. BAM! 

I admire the know-how, the lingo, the multi-tasking and the patience required to be a good cook. Mostly I love the predictability of it all - the crack of dry spaghetti being broken in half, the sizzle of boiling water as it spills from the pot to the element. These are things that can be counted on to always look and sound the same from meal to meal. Even if I'm trying a new recipe, there's a sense of security in these known truths, even in the mistakes. There will always be a microscopic piece of eggshell in the cake batter. And that's okay - once you learn what to expect in the kitchen, you can laugh off the mishaps much easier.

It doesn't come naturally all of the time (there have been days that I literally burst into tears because the breading on my chicken didn't turn out crispy enough) but I try to find little moments of Zen in the cooking process. Few things fill my heart with joy more than the 30 seconds after fresh garlic is added to a pan of melted butter. The sizzle, the smell - it's something that can't be described, but only experienced. 

I've set a personal goal for myself to try at least one new recipe a week while I wait for my immigration paperwork to be finalized, and become a better cook and, in essence, a more patient person. It could be another 3 or 4 months before I'm given the green light to work. I have no control over this. Life never looks like the picture in the book. So rather than let that get me down, I'm going to try my very best to - literally - make lemonade from lemons.


  1. I truly love every word you write

  2. Great post, I love those tins, and Nigella is the best! I am thinking about giving her olive oil-chocolatecake a go this weekend.

    1. I have the biggest girl crush on Nigella :) I saw the recipe for that very same cake on her website recently & it sounds incredible. If you make if you have to let me know how it turns out!

  3. Finding comfort in food--i'm for it! Great post!


Ratings and Recommendations by outbrain