With the bliss of living in France comes the discovery of national and local festivities. Today is Bastille Day, le quatorze juillet. It’s a day to celebrate, it’s a day of letting go…
In the spirit of this festive day, I’d like to share my latest blog on “Sister Meet Sister”. Coincidentally (?), the topic of letting go is centered in that article too:
With all our talk about spirituality, you’d almost forget we lead “regular”, human lives too. Okay maybe not so regular, but human yes. So let me share one of my human adventures with you…
Since the French are famous for their (love of) cooking great meals, and the Dutch…uhm…not so much, I have been wishing to experience the typical French dinner at a big table, surrounded by friends and/or family. Last weekend I was invited to spend the weekend in a family mansion, where a group of friends had planned their annual weekend together. An amazing honor, of course! Little did I know it would bring along a bit of a challenge for me too.
As you’ve gotten to know me, you know I am a bit of a control freak. Letting go is one of my lifelong challenges, and lucky me, you’ve understood that early on!
In a group situation I tend to want to meet-and-manage everybody’s expectations, to make sure the group’s harmony is secure, and that everybody’s happy. However, in this case a different matter became more imminent. As we were spending two days at this house, we were all given a part of the three course lunches (2) and dinners (2) to take care of. Let me tell you: if you want to get to know a person, or different people in a group, give them a task like this and everybody’s personality traits will pop up straight away!
Cooking for a group of people involves taking into account a lot of different tastes, and me being a pescatarian (eating fish, but not meat) did not make it easier. Next to that, there’s something of a performance involved, which made me feel as if I had ended up in an unspoken cooking contest. On the one hand everybody was reassuring each other that it wasn’t a big deal, but on the other hand you could tell that we each tried to come up with the most original — yet tasty — recipe to show off our skills.
You can try and be a guru as much as you like, but when it comes to food you really need to hear people say they like it. After all, you’re feeding them, which is a basic human need, and your dish may not have been their first choice in liking…
I was given the dessert of the second dinner, and of course I wanted to bridge the French and Dutch culture through this course. So I came up with a “Dame Blanche” (vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce) that would be decorated with a typical Dutch waffle (stroopwafel). As with many things in life, the concept was amazing; the execution a challenge. I had never before made a hot chocolate sauce, but found an easy recipe (there are several!), and got cooking. As the chocolate melted, it easily formed a smooth sauce and my relief was immense. Still stirring the sauce,
I was asked a question,
left the pan for a moment,
and there it was:
a lumpy dark matter had replaced the once so easy looking sauce.
It seems silly, but I honestly felt tears welling up in my eyes. How did this happen, and how could I fix it? I couldn’t. I asked for help, and one of the more experienced “chefs” rescued my sauce. Apparently it had gotten slightly too hot, which was enough to create lumps. Lesson learned.
I’m definitely over-analyzing this, but there’s a beautiful pattern here as well, don’t you think?
I guess cooking a meal for others puts us into one of the most vulnerable positions as a human being. It’s a sensitive and tricky situation because there’s always a child crying that it doesn’t want to eat (a part of) the dish, or an adult admitting that they’re actually allergic for the one thing you put the most effort into making. In my case: the whole dish can fall apart by an error in its preparation! As I asked for help, I had to let go of all control. I could no longer keep up the facade that all was well in the kitchen, because it wasn’t. I could not fix my own error, and had to depend on someone else’s skills to make it work.
In the end, I did receive the compliments I had yearned for before. Everybody enjoyed their “Dame Blanche” topped with a Dutch cookie. By that time though, I had let go. I was just happy I managed to put a dessert on the table that was eatable. Everything else became…well…a side dish ;-)
Lots of love from your Frenching-friend,