BlogHer, the NaBloPoMo mother ship, provides us with daily prompts throughout the month, and today’s prompt got me thinking, though I did deviate from the original idea. They asked us about the last time we were brave and to tell what happened.
I don’t consider myself brave. I fear leaving the stove on, the garage door open, the basement flooding. I will not, under any circumstances, watch horror movies. Just, no. Since having Gus, the world seems riddled with dangers I never saw before. Alas, even my work doesn’t feel particularly brave. My writing will never be described as unflinching. A blurb of my first book will likely read, “A comfortable Sunday drive through low-stakes drama and feel-good comedy. Everybody lives. Hurrah.”
Once, after watching an episode of Modern Family, I saw an ABC promo of the episode of black-ish that was coming on next. It said something along the lines of, “Grandpa’s got health problems, but don’t worry. Everything turns out okay.” Spoilers and a reassurance that nobody dies, that we’re all safe here. That’s my kind of promo.
So when I think the last time I was brave, I have a bit of difficulty. But as I shook Gus’s bird rattle over him and watched him kick his Captain Calamari, it came to me: not a time I was brave, but a place I feel fearless.
The kitchen, for me, is my place to be fearless. Merely follow a few instructions, memorize a few steadfast methods, and a world of play opens up to you. The rules are clear and bound by science. And once you know the rules, the fun begins.
I’ve told the story before, but I was thinking of it this morning as I brainstormed this post; indeed, it’s on my mind every November as Amanda and I plan our Thanksgiving menu (that’s another post for another time). I cooked my first Thanksgiving meal when I was eleven or twelve years old. My dad got a turkey from the dealership he worked at, and I cooked it because (shrug) why not? I burnt my hand, and my dad had to lift the bird in and out of the oven since it was too heavy for me. I poured gravy from a jar and made stuffing from a box. I have no memories of dessert. It was not my finest meal, but it’s one of the ones I’m proudest of.
Food Network is now full of programming that features kids who cook better than most adults I know. And I love watching them because I recognize something in them that I learned in the kitchen too: fearlessness. Make a cake? Okay. Barbecue some ribs? Let me at ’em. Funnel cake? Caramels? Thanksgiving dinner? Sure, just let me get my apron.
I’ve made dumb mistakes – the biggest I remember is greasing a serrated knife with my bare fingers, smeared with vegetable oil spread, just so I could more easily cut through fudge. It wasn’t the first or the last time I sliced my fingers. I’ve burnt myself, splashed the floor with grease, stained more shirts than I can even remember. But even with injuries and mishaps under my belt, when I step into the kitchen, I don’t feel brave, which indicates that I’m overcoming a fear. I feel fearless.
My kitchen is where my friends and I practiced salsa dancing. It’s where I’ve stood, leaning my hip against the counter – many kitchens, many counters – sipping and chatting, confiding and laughing. The kitchen is where I stuff my face with stolen bites of cheese, chocolate, fruit, cookies. It’s where Amanda will spread Brie and pepper jelly on a cracker and hold it out to me, “Here.” It is warm and the smells are good and I know who I am and what I can do there, in the kitchen.
So while I have to look, hard, at the garage door and say, “Dana, this door is closed, nothing to fear here,” I feel 100% confident that I can make a vinaigrette. While I swallow and silence all my fears about taking Gus anywhere outside the safety of our house, I know beyond all doubt that I can whip up a loaf of banana bread in a little over an hour. I can mince the garlic and whisk pancake batter and reduce balsamic to thick, sweet-tangy syrup, even if my books do end up, shall we say, flinchy.
I may not feel brave in the world, but I do have a place to feel fearless. And that works for me.