Archives for posts with tag: accepting help

“Get out of my kitchen!”

That is the characterization of many of us home cooks who make meals for a crowd.

It is also the way my mother is characterized by one of my in-law’s. My response? “My mother doesn’t say it LIKE THAT! It takes a lot of concentration to cook for a crowd.”

The person to whom I am speaking has never cooked for a crowd though she claims membership in the “I cooked for a crowd group.”

She has not earned that membership, I’m afraid. Yes, I know this sounds presumptuous. Just know that I know this not to be the case.

In contrast, my sister-in-law, who hosts Easter each year, has earned that membership. She never tries to get people out of her kitchen. She is laid back. She is able to cook while talking to a house full of people. I think that despite the chaos, she is not really impacted by it the way the rest of us are. Not to say that she never gets uptight or angry about anything. But those things are not things in her kitchen.

I don’t like people in my kitchen when I am trying to make a meal for a crowd. Actually, that is not entirely true. If you know how to help without being instructed or getting in the way, that’s cool with me. I have a small kitchen and a little brain when it is focused on dinner making. My mom, my brother, James and my friend, Nancy know how to slip in and so things, as if I had psychically willed them to do it. Also, if you are wanting to keep me company and don’t ask a lot of questions that require deep thinking, you are also welcome in my kitchen. Sometimes, it gets lonely in there.

Other people, they get in my way. They don’t offer to help. They are just vagrants in my kitchen. This is typically the role of some of my brothers. I tell them, “Out of my kitchen!” They scoot. They are used to our mother. Others ask to help out of politeness rather than skill. Or they have skill but are too polite to just start doing stuff.

I often think to myself, “I should do a better job at asking for and accepting help.”

“I should.”

“I really should.”

“Should” does not lead to a switch that we can turn off and on. “Oh, I should do that? Ah, here I go, I am doing it!”

Some very kind friends asked to help me cook for an upcoming dinner party. I did not say, “Get out of my kitchen!” I actually didn’t even think it. But I did think, “What is wrong with me that I can’t accept their help easily?”

I usually think, “It’s because my kitchen in small.” “It’s because I would rather do my prep ahead of time so I can visit.” These things are true, especially the latter point. I thought about it more. Really hard.

When I am driving in a car, I have a very hard time carrying on a conversation with the person who is in the passenger seat even if I like him/her very much and would like to socialize. I also don’t put the radio on when I’m driving, even when there is no one else in the car. I find both scenarios distracting. I don’t feel guilty about either situation. I accept myself for more own strengths and limitations.

I also take a lot of photos. That is, I take a lot of photos when I am alone. If I am in a social situation, I have an incredibly hard time remembering to take photos because I am distracted by visiting with people. I don’t feel guilty about this situation even when I had planned to take photos of the event. I wish I were better at doing both things but I don’t feel as thought I “should” be better or that I am letting people down.

I am a damned good home cook. But I am not an executive chef. Perhaps in time, I could train my brain to work that way, but right now and for the last few decades, it has not been that way. Most days of the year, I get no help at all. I do everything myself. I love to socialize with people. I love to cook. Both activities require a great deal of concentration on my part. I mean, yes, there are times in cooking when I am just standing around and welcome time to chat with people. But then there are the other times. And what is particularly difficult is giving other people directions when I am in the thick of things.

It is not that I am a control freak or not open to help.

I am just not that skilled. Sometimes I even write a list of things that people can do to help so that people don’t get mad at me when I can’t think of something they can do to help, when asked. This list, by the way, usually ends up being more work for me but helps assuage other people’s feelings.

As I said, I am a damned good home cook. Why should I feel less than because I have a hard time accepting help due to my difficulties with multi-tasking? Why should I feel that by taking on a lot of responsibility, I am somehow lacking in politeness or depriving others of their right to help?

Today, I am reminding myself of something. I am who I am, pluses and minuses. I may change over time but today, I know what I am able to do.

In the meantime, stay out of my kitchen unless I say, “Hey, keep me company” or “It’s time to eat. Can you help carry things out to the table?”

It’s not about you. It’s about me, doing the best I have with what I’ve got. Unless of course, you bring a bag of groceries to my house and expect to make something in my kitchen, from scratch. If you do that, you will get if not an “evil” eye, an “irritated” eye. Seriously? People, don’t do that. And if you need the oven or microwave to heat something up, it is very considerate to ask about this well ahead of time. It is even more considerate to make something that does not require use of my kitchen because people, two weeks before the event, I have already mapped out the real estate on my stove, oven, roasting oven, crock pot, microwave, and grill.

And guess what? Despite my potentially shooing you from my kitchen, we will all get a good meal out of it. It will be a win win win win win win win win win win win…

I have such wonderful friends and family, some of whom came to our house yesterday for a weeding party.

What is a weeding party, you ask? Basically, it was a way for me to ask for help with my yard. Repeated surgeries on my right side had resulted in a year’s worth of neglect of my yard by me. My dear neighbor, Deana has helped a lot, especially with deadheading. But there were two big projects in the front garden that were getting me down: (1) The encroachment of grass on the west side of the yard and (2) the overtaking of an entire section of garden by a very pesky and intrusive wire weed. It was so cute in it’s little pot when I bought it as a ground cover several years ago. Little did I know that it was like a mini form of kudzu, the vine that has been choking off entire trees (and a barn in this photo) in the southeastern U.S.

With our little work crew, we were able to get the job done in about 1 1/2 hours. Then we had food and hung out on the new deck, that John has nearly finished except for staining the wood. The lilacs are in bloom and the scent was wonderful. It was a glorious day.

I had a hard time asking people for this help. But I kept reminding myself that people have kept asking what they could do to help and how much less helpless I feel when there’s something concrete I can do for a loved one in a time of need. It was a beautiful day, a celebration of love and kindness. Plus, the apple pie I made turned out extra pretty. (I heard it tasted good, too but I am not eating wheat these days and didn’t want to do a test drive with a gluten-free crust recipe on company.)

First things first. Is this pie a beauty, or what? The lovely caramelized top was an accident. I had so many apples to use up that I cooked the filling on the stove top before I filled the pie so that it would reduce in volume a little. It's a good thing I did this as my pie dough was not well behaved enough to roll into a full top and bottom crust. The pre-cooking kept the apples from drying out in the oven. Okay, enough about pies; let's move onto the garden.

First things first. Is this pie a beauty, or what? The lovely caramelized top was an accident. I had so many apples to use up that I cooked the filling on the stove top before I filled the pie so that it would reduce in volume a little. It’s a good thing I did this as my pie dough was not well behaved enough to roll into a full top and bottom crust. The pre-cooking kept the apples from drying out in the oven. Okay, enough about pies; let’s move onto the garden.

This is just after I took the first chunk out of the wire weed invasion.

This is just after I took the first chunk out of the wire weed invasion.

1 1/2 hours later and the wire weed is gone! Yay! Most of this work was done by my cousin, Catherine and my husband, John.

1 1/2 hours later and the wire weed is gone! Yay! Most of this work was done by my cousin, Catherine and my husband, John.

We dug up a lot of compost in 1 1/2 hours! Tomorrow it will get picked up by waste management and become part of Seattle's awesome composting program!

We dug up a lot of compost in 1 1/2 hours! Tomorrow it will get picked up by waste management and become part of Seattle’s awesome composting program!

Thanks, Mom, Dad, John, Catherine, Deana, Jennie, and Preben for making my yard feel manageable again. I'm eager to go out again next weekend!

Thanks, Mom, Dad, John, Catherine, Deana, Jennie, and Preben for making my yard feel manageable again.

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