7: Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

7: Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Food and Love

Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone

There is no sight on earth more appealing than the sight of a woman making dinner for someone she loves.

~Thomas Wolfe

When Shaun and I were first married, he half-jokingly said I was not allowed in the kitchen. He would do all the cooking, he assured me. I didn’t argue. We both knew my cooking skills were limited at best.

At twenty-two years old, my culinary repertoire consisted of grilled cheese sandwiches and cereal and milk. Don’t get me wrong, I could follow a recipe — as long as it had no more than five ingredients and they could easily be found in the kitchen cupboard.

Unfortunately, I had high expectations for my married self: I would be an expert chef and the stereotypical wife of yesteryear, with a hot meal on the table every evening.

In reality, those expectations created a barrier between my kitchen and me. In my desire to excel, I found it easier to avoid cooking, as opposed to preparing a meal that ended up in the trash.

Shaun, on the other hand, was completely at ease in the kitchen and could throw together a delicious meal with random ingredients he plucked from the cupboards. Luckily, he was aware of my apprehension and, as we cooked meals together, gently guided me through the ins and outs of boiling, broiling and baking.

But two and a half years later I finally realized that, for my husband, a home-cooked meal meant love. And while we frequently cooked meals together, “Food always tastes better when someone else makes it,” he once explained. He also hinted on occasion: “To properly woo a woman, you can’t do it on an empty stomach.”

Taking his sentiments into consideration, I decided it was time for me to try it on my own. We were sitting in the living room watching TV when I first broached the subject.

“Shaun,” I said during the commercial break, “I’m cooking dinner Thursday night.”

“Oh?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“But what if it doesn’t turn out well?” I added hastily, becoming panicked as visions of charred meatloaf and soggy biscuits flashed through my mind.

With a reassuring grin, he said, “Then we’ll have the Chinese restaurant on speed dial!” And that’s what we did. There was no pressure to make the “perfect” meal because I knew there was a back-up plan.

When Thursday evening arrived, I prepared a simple chicken dish with a side of green beans and potatoes. While it wasn’t on the table as soon as Shaun walked in the door (my unrealistic expectation), it was ready shortly thereafter. We said a brief prayer asking God to bless the food — and make it edible — and then began to eat.

After a few tentative bites, Shaun began to chow down. “Heather, you did a great job,” he said between mouthfuls. “Thank you for dinner; this is delicious.”

But what made the dinner delicious wasn’t the taste of the food — although it was edible. It was the acknowledgement and appreciation that I was stepping out of my comfort zone (and overcoming my perfectionism) to show my husband that I loved him.

I try to cook at least one night a week; that’s usually all I can manage with a busy schedule. As I prepare those meals, Shaun keeps his distance from the kitchen, allowing me the space I need to feel relaxed and confident.

Now I find that I want to cook, and I enjoy experimenting with new recipes. I also cherish the appreciation in my husband’s eyes when he enjoys a home-cooked meal. Sometimes the meal turns out well, other times not, but it’s almost always edible. We’ve only had to order take-out a few times. Granted, Shaun still cooks dinner for both of us several times a week, and we make many of our meals together, but he knows that once a week he’ll get a meal made especially for him... except on Mondays. I don’t cook on Mondays — the local Chinese restaurant is closed that day!

~Heather Brand

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