About 3 years ago now, we began the process of having our house made wheelchair accessible. One of the rooms, which needed to be addressed, was the kitchen. Neither my walker, nor my wheelchair could fit through the space between the counter and the peninsula. So I would have to transfer to this little secretarial type chair on wheels and use that in the little cooking area. This past spring, after waiting “patiently” for a few years, our kitchen was made accessible for my wheelchair. One of these days, the cabinets will also be accessible, but that is another storyJ. Anyway, I share this because the other day a friend, who had not been here since the renovations, was over and asked me if I cooked better because my kitchen was more accessible. I had to laugh.
Is it easier to cook – yes. Do I cook better – no. When she asked me that question, I found my brain drifting back to this commercial that I have not been able to shake from my head this week – it is that one for Wolf stoves. You may know which one I am talking about. It begins with a woman at the fishmongers ordering a whole fish. There is this man behind her asking her if she has a back up plan and if she knows a caterer. In the next scene, he continues to goad her as she cooks this gourmet meal. He finally sees that she is confident and realizes she is no longer afraid. Once he realizes she is ignoring him, he leaves. The message of this commercial is supposed to be that cooking on a professional grade Wolf stove is going to make all the difference in the world in your cooking. It echoes what I hear all the time on some of the shows on HGTV when people who do not cook, or do very little cooking, seem to want all these modern, high end appliances in their kitchen and talk about how this will make them a better cook. Maybe it will; they are not me.
What I do know is that what the woman in the commercial lacked before her new stove was not a new stove, but the self-confidence to know she could cook this and other dishes. And this has been the biggest change in my kitchen these last several years. The biggest change has not been the increased accessibility, or the new stainless steel refrigerator, which we had to buy after our old one died. It has not been the awesome cook top on my stove or the double sinks in my kitchen, all of which are a significant improvement over the one butt kitchen I had while I was in seminary.
The biggest change in the kitchen has been me. I have always been a good cook. My mom and grandmother taught me some baking skills, not cooking, but baking. What I know about cooking I taught myself. The change though is that until recently, I was afraid to cook anything that was not from a recipe. All the recipe websites and cookbooks were my best friends. Even if I had made something a hundred times, I needed to have that recipe sheet or cookbook in front of me. I lived with the fear that I might not make it “right.” Like the woman at the fishmongers, I had this voice standing outside me saying things like, “are you sure you can do this.” “Do you remember how,” “do you have a backup plan in case you screw it up.”
Then like the woman in the commercial, I came to a place where I ignored those voices. It was not the new appliances or the increased accessibility that got rid of these voices. It was me. I began cooking from a place of self-love and not fear. I remembered as Alton Brown always says on the Next Iron Chef, even good chefs have bad days. So I liberated myself from the ideal that I had to make my dishes exactly as the recipe said. Now I use them for inspiration. I cook from a place of self-love and self-confidence knowing that what people always taste in my food is love, the primary ingredient in my kitchen and pantry.