I suddenly went from being an only child to having a houseful of sisters. When I left my job this summer, I was one of the “younger” people at my firm. Now I’m the oldest of the postulants. My wardrobe has been transformed from a nice selection of business casual clothes and suits into a small collection of blue skirts and sensible shoes. As a native of Cleveland, home of perpetual heartbreak for sports fans, it is even hard for me to comprehend that my new “home” team, the Cardinals, are actually this year’s World Series champs!To top it off, as a former estate planning lawyer, I know the ins-and-outs of drafting wills and trusts, but most of that knowledge has no direct application to what I’m doing now. This means I’ve spent much of the past two months learning entirely new sets of skills. One of these is cooking dinner for ten people on a regular basis.
To say I didn’t feel up to this task at first would be an understatement. Sure, I’ve heated up many a Lean Cuisine dinner in my day, and I can microwave bags of popcorn with the best! I’ve even scrambled an egg or two from time to time. But cooking for ten people? That’s a whole new ballgame.
Fortunately, my family and friends heard my desperate cries for help and generously responded by sending me their favorite recipes and even a subscription to the Food Network Magazine.
Armed with these valuable resources, I marched into our kitchen. Fortunately, I was not marching alone. The postulant community is divided into two teams who take turns cooking on alternating Mondays.
My cooking team consists of Cheryl, Carly and me. While Carly has a lot of experience in the kitchen, Cheryl and I are still learning the ropes. Our combined efforts would make for some interesting reality TV.Our most memorable adventure in the kitchen was our attempt to serve Easy Cajun Jambalaya to our community and our special guests, the two sisters from our provincial government who were visiting us that Monday. We were determined to impress (or at least not induce food poisoning).
To our dismay, as my team began preparing the meal, we discovered that most of the ingredients called for in the recipe were not in our fridge or pantry. Bravely attempting to stick to our planned menu--- and with little time to spare--- we put out heads together and swapped almost ALL of the ingredients called for in the recipe with something else.The result was a unique culinary invention that could never be mistaken for the original Jambalaya recipe. Gazing upon our masterpiece, Cheryl suggested adding one final “special” ingredient: turmeric. This transformed our dish into the most beautiful shade of yellow (an improvement over the original hue), and our meal was complete. We lovingly named our concoction “Postulant Surprise.”
|Our "secret" recipe|
I’m happy to report the meal was tasty and earned rave reviews! More importantly, it was an experience of the challenges and joys of living in a religious community.With each turn in the kitchen, I am learning to let go of my desire to be “perfect.” I am loosening my grip on my past successes and starting to live in the present. I am being stretched and learning to adapt in stressful situations. I am experiencing the benefits of working together with Carly and Cheryl to create meals that are not only edible, but enjoyable. One of my cooking team members (who shall remain nameless) summed it up best, as she shouted out in one of our more frenzied moments: “I am dying to self! I am dying to self!”
Despite a few close calls, we haven’t ignited any grease fires on our gas stove. No one has been rushed to the emergency room after one of our meals. Cheryl, Carly and I are still speaking to each other. Those whom we’ve fed haven’t kicked us out. Though you won’t find “Postulant Surprise” in any cookbook, life is good.And who would have guessed I would grow to like this community cooking gig? As a matter of fact, if I’m not in the chapel or Book Center, you might very well find me in the kitchen frothing eggs with some of my fellow postulants.
|Illustration: the effects of turmeric on white rice|