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Scheherazade in Blue Jeans
freelance alchemist
The stories we tell ourselves about ourselves 
2nd-Sep-2013 03:40 pm
Hearth
In the wake of Elayna leaving for college, I made a list of huge multi-hour tasks that I'd been putting off. Stuff that I would always have been interrupted doing. Stuff that would fill Elayna-less time. Last week I sorted all my jewelry, which turned into reorganizing my bedroom. Today I went through the recipe box.

Now, the recipe box is not a little index-card holder on the counter. No. The recipe box is a full-size banker's box, completely full of recipes I've torn from magazines and photocopied from books over a very long period of time. At one point I clearly started sorting them, as there are "chicken" and "beef" folders in there, et cetera, but for the most part, this was just an enormous stack of loose paper.

I dug in.

The thing that occurred to me, as I relentlessly chipped away at the task of sorting no-shit ten years worth of recipes, is that the recipes we tear out of magazines are part of the story we tell ourselves about ourselves. Go way back, and you see a lot of recipes that start with a can of this or a box of that, because I was raised without family recipes. I was raised on takeout. I literally did not know where to start. So my first aspirational stuff was just:

I will be a person who cooks.

And then also:

I will be a person who does special kid-food-things for her daughter.

(I can throw away the lunchbox-treats stuff now, and the how-to-sneak-veggies in.)

I will be a person who does ridiculously fancy things to cupcakes.

There's a particular thing about the timing of all of this that gives me sadness pangs. Those who've known me for over a decade may have spotted it already. There was stuff in there from as far back as '97, y'all. But. There was a HUGE spike of recipes torn from magazines in 2003-2004.

October 2003 was when I got my epilepsy diagnosis.

At that point, I had taught myself to cook a bit! I was a good baker! But temporal lobe seizures that aren't well-controlled by medicine = no cooking. Because the pain receptors don't work. Because I could have my hand on a hot burner for 3-5 minutes and not know until after.

Beyond that, the first few years of medications made me constantly violently nauseated. For the first few months, I couldn't eat more than a single bite of anything at a time.

So. Unable to eat, unable to cook, I clearly went into an absolute frenzy of tearing recipes out of magazines.

I will bake again and I will bake these popovers.

I will cook again and I will cook this casserole.

I can't do this now, but I will, I will.

And so on. And more things have changed; in 2009 I got the celiac diagnosis. So. A lot of these recipes can be modified to be GF, but so many can't, the ones that rely upon a can of this or a box of that. Those get thrown away.

I eat differently now. I have to. Less processed. Most of the recipes I tear out are simpler. Now I look at the prep time, and I look at what parts I can do. I can't fry the onions, but I can chop them, and I can wash the potatoes, and I can make that marinade.

And it's not I will anymore.

It's I do.

I don't have a neat conclusion here. All I have are these unformed thoughts about this map of myself that I found in an unexpected place.
Comments 
(Deleted comment)
2nd-Sep-2013 09:49 pm (UTC)
I guess one of the lessons might be that I am a different person today than I was yesterday, and will be again a different person tomorrow. Even if there's some sort of continuity, we're not the same people. We are our bodies and our experiences, and if our bodies change it does change who we are, and if our experiences change, it does change who we are.

Maybe something like that could be part of it?
(Deleted comment)
4th-Sep-2013 02:14 pm (UTC)
Excellent point. :)
2nd-Sep-2013 10:30 pm (UTC)
I understand this so well. I have had to start collecting all new recipes--no wheat and no corn is a challenge! But you need special home-made cookies at Christmastime, it's not a luxury, it's part of connecting to all the years that came before and will come, both yours and your family's.

This icon, btw, is part of the tradition of my family's Christmas Cookies.
2nd-Sep-2013 11:22 pm (UTC)
I very badly need to build a repertoire of recipes, go-to things that I can cook that darkpaisley likes (she's not very picky, but the things she does not like and the centerpieces of my former go-to recipes were near a single circle in Venn diagram form). Things I can cook while brain dead and worn out from the day.
2nd-Sep-2013 11:53 pm (UTC)
Mmm stir-fries? Easily adaptable to any dietary needs...
4th-Sep-2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
What does she not like?
2nd-Sep-2013 11:54 pm (UTC)
This is lovely. Thank you for sharing.

I do not save anything, and have no such record... it's right for me, but also sometimes sad.
4th-Sep-2013 03:44 am (UTC)
Me neither. I have dozens of cookbooks I read through once and never opened again. I cook by winging it. Anything else feels wrong to me.
4th-Sep-2013 02:12 pm (UTC)
Were you raised cooking? I never learned improvisation....
4th-Sep-2013 04:56 pm (UTC)
Yup. I had the opposite growing up experience as you. "You must learn to cook or you'll never find a man and you'll die alone and unloved." My aunt ran a restaurant and catering business and was damned successful at it too; I'm not as talented as her but I did learn young. I stopped cooking for several years because fuck that noise, and then had to find my way back to enjoying it without the compulsory domestic femininity attached to it.
(Deleted comment)
4th-Sep-2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
Next time you're in Boston, BIG PARTY!
3rd-Sep-2013 02:13 pm (UTC)
I love this post and the previous one. There's a lot in here about being lost and returning to the domestic self; the hearth is the heart of the home and the soul and all that...Hestia has her priestesses too you know but they don't do much preaching; they're always in the kitchen ;-)
3rd-Sep-2013 04:57 pm (UTC) - the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves
Whoa. WHOA.

I grok that. Good on you for a new stage in the journey. I hope it's awesome and tasty and fortunate.

I just started telling myself new stories about myself. Or maybe they're old stories that I'd long thought forgotten, I'm not sure. But now I'm ready to believe them, and it's about time. Being around people who get that is a Good Thing (TM).
7th-Sep-2013 03:36 am (UTC)
I have a suggestion. Don't toss the recipes you can't use. Give them away! It's about connections. Maybe hold a recipe swap at a con?

Cooking is meaningful. It can be an act of love or an act of worship. It can be a gift you give to others or to yourself. </p>

Thanks so much for writing!

16th-Sep-2013 08:37 pm (UTC)
I know this is a bit of an old entry, but I tend to skim your LJ on occasion, and I just noticed you mentioned being GF and having issues with certain types of prep... I don't know if you've found it, yet, but there is a website, crockpot365. com, which is full of crockpot recipes, all of which are designed to be gluten free, as her youngest daughter has celiac disease. I've found it incredibly useful because a lot of the recipes basically have prep of "Put things in crockpots." If you have a crockpot, it might be worth checking it out.
18th-Sep-2013 01:12 pm (UTC)
Yep! We have her cookbooks, too. :)
18th-Sep-2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
I'm diabetic, so I have different nutritional problems, but a lot of her recipes work SO WELL for me. The Tangy Lemon Chicken is one of my favorites, especially because, IMO, using sugar-free Jello in it makes the marinade EASIER to work with. Sugar-free Jello weighs one-tenth what sugared Jello does. I know not why. :)
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