Cards on the Table

I have the feeling that you think I’m a good cook. That you’re convinced I’m 100% at ease in the kitchen, with my Anthropologie apron on.

Did I give you this impression on Instagram? I feel like I might have, accidentally.

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Or maybe it was on Pinterest? Maybe it was the words Well Done that led you astray. I doubt Facebook was the culprit, since I don’t really do much on there — beyond worry about the whole make your own page and then ask people to like you situation.

In any case, I’d like to set a few things straight. To begin, I don’t have an apron from Anthropologie. Although I would really love this one or this one. It’s lucky, really, that I don’t have to choose — because I can’t afford either one. Well I could, but then I would be out almost a week’s worth of groceries. And if I were going to blow that kind of money, I would probably buy filet mignon, European butter, a box of FIKA truffles, a wedge of truly excellent cheese (cheesemonger’s choice), and a loaf of artisan bread.

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Oh! And, and, and: fresh raspberries. Lots of them. Four or five pints — even if they weren’t on sale. (As it is, I go through a lot of frozen berries.)

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I feel like it’s important that you know that I eat a lot of not-seasonable things. A lot of frozen things. A lot of things not-farmer’s-market things. And also that I cook in pajama shorts and a t-shirt, most of the time. It gets steamy in my studio, especially when I’m shuffling around multiple pots and pans. It gets hot, and it gets sticky — particularly when I have nowhere to wipe my hands but on the backs of my thighs.

I really need to break that habit. Particularly if there is duck fat involved. Duck fat, along with maple syrup, orange zest, thyme, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Glorious things, when they’re all sizzled together — but slightly less glorious, when they’re splattering all over everything in sight. That little lesson learned made me wish that I’d thought to wear pants — or at least a shirt I didn’t like so much.

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Here is something else that you should take away: I get ruffled really easily. Let’s go back to the duck. Up until last weekend, I had no idea how to cook duck. Duck fell — and still falls — under the category of Things I Love But Would Rather Let You Cook. (If you’re so inclined, this is a fabulous recipe.)

The truth is that I like being the sous chef best. Here’s another truth, for you: there is a boy who figured this out way before I did. And I probably would have chopped his head off if he’d ever dared to suggest it. Desolée.

I doubt he’d be surprised to hear that I like to keep you company while you decide if that pink we’re looking at is Perfectly Pink or Too Pink. To hear that I like setting the table, peeling the sweet potatoes, washing the greens, whisking together the salad dressing, doing the first round of dishes, slicing the onions, etc. Actually, wait — lie. I hate slicing onions. (He always knew that too.)

Let me tell you the two things I know about knives: Japanese symbols are a good sign, and you should flip the blade the other way before you scrape anything off of the cutting board.

I’ll let you wow me with your knife knowledge and/or skills. That’s not what I’m good at. I want to plate the dish, I want to snap a few photos of it, and I want to talk about it. But I don’t necessarily need to take all of the credit for making it — in order to enjoy it. In fact, I’m almost sure that I’m going to enjoy it more if you made most of it.

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Now don’t get me wrong: it’s not that I can’t take charge. I’ve been making my own meals ever since I weaseled my way out of my meal plan sophomore year of college. But I just have the feeling that you think I’m some kind of budding chef, and I wanted you to know that that doesn’t sit right with me. For whatever it’s worth.

Let’s just be really honest. 6 nights out of 7, I eat dinner from a plastic plate. I think it’s a salad plate, technically. And it’s covered with multi-colored hearts. There is nothing sophisticated going on here — trust me.

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There is just bagged spinach, and some pea shoots in need of a little love. A skillet full of mushrooms, and a single shallot. A glug of garlic olive oil, a handful of teeny tiny potatoes, and a few clicks of Trader Joe’s sea salt. A chicken breast, and a random assortment of spices (Cajun, cayenne, chili powder, thyme, and red pepper flakes). There are just those things, all dumped unceremoniously onto the one plate that isn’t too big to fit in the drying rack.

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I don’t throw dinner parties every night. I call my mom — do a victory dance whenever my chicken doesn’t dry out.

Anyway, now that we have that cleared up, we can return to the topic at hand: the fact that I like the assistant’s role. (And the fact that this feels like the kiss of death, on a professional front.) Because, you see, I’m beginning to realize that this desire to defer — it extends to other parts of my life too.

I’m finding it very hard to not let myself feel like any less because of it. Less ambitious, less valuable, less intelligent — I’m not exactly sure how to explain it. But somewhere along the way, I must have internalized that I should want to be in the driver’s seat, wherever I go. That I shouldn’t be content, riding shotgun.

But I am. I think I really am. When it comes to anything besides my writing, I think I’d rather be shown. Be taught. (At least at first.) I’m 23, and I don’t have all of the answers. And I don’t want to be expected to have all of the answers, either. I’d be more than happy to go find them for you, but I’d be really thrilled if you’d send someone along to go with me. I’d sleep a lot better at night. And I’d probably eat a lot more slowly, too.

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I know this about myself, and yet I continue to put myself in situations where I’m going to be neither mentored nor managed. Why? Why, why, why. Why do I actively seek positions that will almost certainly leave ME doing the mentoring and the managing?

Because that’s what I said I wanted — that’s what I said I would bring to the table. Because I knew it would look good on my resume? Because I wanted to be perceived as smart and successful?

Why do I keep doing this?

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2 thoughts on “Cards on the Table

  1. You are! My yoga instructor at the end of class tells us a manta: breath in “I am”, breath out “love”. It always helps calm me down, and now thinking the same thing, that I shouldn’t be expected to know the answers. So let’s live life one mistake at a time. Happy Tuesday!

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