Preparing Food is an Effort that Shows How Much You Care

Preparing Food is an Effort that Shows How Much You Care

“I think preparing food and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but to our spirits. Feeding people is a way of loving them, in the same way that feeding ourselves is a way of honoring our own createdness and fragility.”

Shauna NiequistBittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

The year was 1999, and a friend of mine from college had just introduced me to a remarkable young woman who, a few short years later, would surprisingly become my wife.

At this point in history, my future wife and I were nothing more than acquaintances who associated with each other only in groups of mutual friends, not solely on our own. 

One weekend, while my parents were out of town, I decided this was an excellent opportunity to invite a few friends for dinner, showcase my culinary skills, and spend more time with my future wife. 

The only problem with this plan was I needed culinary skills, which I lacked.

In retrospect, I should have ordered pizza or some other form of take-out food rather than attempting to prepare a meal all on my own for what essentially was the first time. 

But in my early twenties, my brain did not fully consider the work that was needed, not to mention I was trying to impress my future bride with my kitchen prowess.

But as I discovered that night, preparing food is more challenging than it looks on television cooking shows. 

I found a recipe in one of my mother’s cookbooks for chicken cutlets in a wine sauce served with potatoes and mixed vegetables.

The best part? It all cooked at the same time in the same casserole dish in the oven, requiring little to no babysitting on my part so I could spend more time with my guests.

Though the recipe clearly stated the cooking time, I wanted to make sure the chicken was cooked through. Nothing ruins a pleasant evening with friends like giving them all salmonella poisoning.

And so, I cooked it slightly longer than the recipe stated. Okay, a LOT longer.

When my future wife popped into the kitchen to see if there was anything she could do to help, I asked her how you know when chicken cutlets are cooked all the way through.

She asked me, “Well, how long have they been cooking?”

To which I responded, “About an hour.”

She respectfully and thoughtfully said, “Oh, I’m sure they’re done by now.”

While all those gathered around the dinner table that evening were appreciative and complimentary of the meal and my hosting abilities, I could taste that the chicken was incredibly overdone as soon as I put it in my mouth. 

The lesson for me is that when preparing food, adhering to the measurements and timing of the recipe will yield ideal results.

A few years later, after my wife and I were married, again, in her respectful and thoughtful tone, she confessed that on that memorable evening (which was a turning point in our relationship), the chicken was incredibly overdone, but she did not want to hurt my feelings. 

She recognized all the time and effort I put into the meal and truly appreciated my generosity, which she expressed that night. 

Besides, she saw no benefit for either of us in criticizing the results after recognizing my efforts. 

Preparing Food for the Ones You Love

In May 2024, my wife and I will celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary. While my culinary skills have certainly improved since the story I recounted back in 1999, admittedly, my wife is the culinary guru in our house.

She enjoys everything about preparing food, from the science of recipes and ingredients to reading about its history and origins. She researches the ideal tools and equipment and fills jars in our pantry with flour, beans, nuts, and other unique goods so they are always at her disposal when needed. 

Our kitchen is a place of solace and delight for my wife. While she enjoys preparing traditional favorites and creating new recipes, there is another reason she finds such pleasure in preparing food.

As Niequist stated at the top of this post, “Feeding people is a way of loving them.”

Nothing brings my wife more joy than preparing food that someone appreciates while feeling the love generated by her stirring, simmering, chopping, and baking.

Thankfully, I am the lucky beneficiary of that love in so many ways.

Sadly, food snobs view preparing food with a judgmental and contemptible eye. They are more concerned with an expectation or ideal rather than acknowledging the thoughtfulness and time that went into the preparation.

Like everything else in life, perfection is unachievable, which is why we as a society should measure one’s effort rather than one’s results. Recognizing how preparing food is a true extension of the heart and is not afforded to everyone gathered around the kitchen table. 

Marketing expert Dean Jackson once said, “When a child gives you a gift, even if it is a rock they just picked up, exude gratitude. It might be the only thing they have to give, and they have chosen to give it to you.”

Recipes, even those made many times before, sometimes turn out differently than planned.

Some are phenomenal successes, while others cause you to make notes for a better ingredient, a new measurement, or a different technique for the next time you prepare the recipe.

But regardless of the outcome, when someone is preparing food, they are giving you a gift, and the proper response one should have for anyone giving them a gift?

Exude gratitude. Why?

Because someone thought enough about you to create a homemade recipe that will fill not only your stomach but your heart.

As I near the end of this post, I hear the oven timer going off in the kitchen and smell the aroma of a buttery crust as it perfumes the air.

The buttery crust belongs to a traditional Italian meat pie, which is prepared during the Easter season. Its name is dependent on your origins and regionality. 

For me, it is known as pizza gain, filled with meats and cheeses all baked to perfection in said buttery crust. But others refer to it as pizzagaina, pizza rustica, or Italian Easter meat pie. Regardless of the naming convention, it is delicious and addictive.

My beloved grandmother’s recipe, which I am sure was handed down to her by my great-grandmother, was pretty good. My mother’s was a bit better.

But my wife took the best parts of the recipe and amplified the flavors and ingredients to sheer lusciousness.

Yet regardless of which family member prepared the year’s pizza gain, I would never criticize any of them, for each was prepared with a genuine affection for the family that cherished the times and love around the dinner table more than what was being served.

So, the next time someone prepares food for you that does not satisfy your expectations or ideals, count your blessings, exude gratitude, and keep your mouth closed unless it is time for another bite. 

Even though your criticisms show you do not deserve their time and attention, remember that someone loved you enough to prepare a homemade meal just for you.