I love a good metaphor as much as I love a bad pun.  When I’m hungry for a tasty metaphor, I need only step into my kitchen.

Like me, my kitchen is small and doesn’t have a lot of storage space, but is stocked with plenty of tools to whip up a marvelous little confection or a grand and sumptuous meal.  Sometimes I need detailed instructions, as when I’m trying something completely new.  Other times, I’m feeling resourceful, and whip up something delicious from ingredients already in my fridge and pantry.  Sometimes those ingredients are somewhere between fresh and fermenting, but they’re still good, so they’re goin’ in.

My kitchen is a haven to me.  If I’ve been away from home, I drop my suitcase by the door and march directly to the pantry to start a bread dough or rustle up some of my famous homemade Twinkies.  It is as natural to me as breathing, a gift from my grandmother.

That’s why it has always amazed me when anyone confesses anxiety over cooking.  “If you can read, you can cook,” has been my mantra, and I still believe that.  But now I understand that some folks could use a coach in the kitchen.  My sense is that the anxiety isn’t about how the food turns out, but more about how others will react to it.  Will they like it?  Will they LOVE it?  Will they love ME?

Fear of being judged in this way can be truly crippling and lead to a life of take-out.

If you’re one of those traumatized cooks who fears the cable channel cooking competition judges, maybe it’s time to forget about whether the cupcakes are perfect, and focus on the learning and the fun.  Make a mess.  Lick the bowl. Invite friends.  You’ll have to throw out some of your creations, but others will get gobbled up.  See? A lot like life.

A few years ago, I made a wonderfully moist chocolate cake.  Unfortunately, it was a little too moist, and it broke apart as I tried to frost it.  The birthday party was starting shortly, and I had no time to bake another.  So, I took a spoon, dropped gobs of frosting all over, stuck an old Matchbox car in the middle and called it “Train Wreck Cake.”   It looked awful but tasted wonderful, and we all had a good laugh.

Experience cooking, and life, in this way, and notice how well you’re able to nourish yourself, and others.  Be willing to try new things, and to toss whatever doesn’t work. Feast on the really tasty dishes.  Improvise.  And invite someone into your kitchen when you could use some help.

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