Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 10 challenge: Cook dinner 5 nights out of the week

This week I revisited my “things I don’t do list” and I discovered that cooking was at the top of my list.  So I thought to myself, in a very optimistic attitude, I’m going to change that this week.

However, I quickly became very aware of how many people knew I didn’t cook from the uncensored reactions I got from friends and family when I told them about my challenge.

Half of my friends laughed in my face when I told them I was going to cook and the other half expressed genuine surprise and borderline concern.  I thought to myself, well, at least I believe in myself.

But that confidence was quickly shaken on Monday night when I planned on cooking for an impromptu thanksgiving dinner with friends but failed when I realized that leaving thirty minutes to cook any sort of thanksgiving dish- including running to the grocery store to get ingredients- was not only poor time management but also impossible.  So I updated my challenge: cook dinner 5 nights out of the week (is it bad that I find loopholes to my own rules?).

Later on that night I had a mini panic attack while searching the internet for dinner recipes for the remainder of the week.  The ingredients and spices and instructions all looked like a foreign language to me.  One recipe after another I thought to myself, “nope, can’t do that one,” and “definitely can’t do that one”. I felt defeated before my challenge had even began and thought to myself, I don’t cook, I don’t cook, what am I doing?!

But really, I literally have never cooked before. 

Not real cooking anyways.  I boil pasta, I preheat ovens, I toss salads, I can set a microwave to a set amount of time. On occasion I’ll pore a bag of Bertolli frozen pasta into a skillet and pretend like I’m cooking… but I’m not.

And to make matters worse, back when I was feeling confident and giddy about my challenge, I promised this guy I’m dating that I would cook dinner for him on Tuesday night.  So now not only was I feeling discouraged about my challenge but I reluctantly had to kick off my first dinner with someone I was trying to impress.

Talk about a scary experience. 

So when Tuesday night came around my date and I navigated our way through the grocery store collecting all the ingredients I needed for our dinner.  While he set the table and poured the wine I pretended like I knew exactly what I was doing while chopping up the onions, tomatoes, peppers and garlic (secretly I made a phone call to my mom asking her about the garlic mincing).  I carefully read the recipe instructions and step by step, the meal came together.  I was so proud of the outcome I had to take a picture of it before either of us could eat. 

And the best part was it was delicious.

After I told myself (and proved to myself) that “yes, in fact I can cook,” my whole attitude changed for the week.

I looked forward to the opportunity to cook for my family and friends.  I made stir-fry for my family Wednesday night and on Thanksgiving I made a sweet potato casserole that was so yummy it didn’t last long enough for seconds.  On Friday and Saturday my family wanted to go out to eat dinner so I compromised by making grilled chicken and cheese sandwiches for lunch Friday and I repeated the bruschetta I made Tuesday for appetizers Saturday.  And just because I was on a roll, Sunday night I made a tomato, garlic and basil pasta dish for my friends.

I felt ridiculously accomplished at the end of this week.  I thought, “Oh my gosh, I just cooked, I can do this, I can cook!”

And of course I can cook, but to be honest, I never tried to cook before.  Not trying was safe; not trying meant that there would be no opportunity to fail. 

That’s what my “things I don’t do list” consists of: activities or experiences that I don’t try because I’m scared of what will happen if I do. 

But when you push past the irrational expectations you have set for the “things you don’t do” and face the reality of what actually happens when you simply do, everything can change.

It did for me. I am a cook.  I am a runner.  What else can I do? 

Self-talk goes a long way and how you label yourself matters.

So I’m trying this new thing where I eliminate the word don’t from my vocabulary… I’m excited for the limitless opportunities that it will present for me. 

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