Cooking and Gratitude

30 Jul 2019

One of my first memories is cooking with my mother. We had been reading "Mistress Tibble Makes Mouse Pies" and I wanted to make mouse pies too.

My mother decided that Scotch pancakes (like American pancakes) would be the easiest thing to make, and so we mixed flour and eggs and milk and carefully ladled the batter onto the slow plate of the Aga, flipping them when the bubbles rose, and the bottoms were a delicious golden brown. Then we ate them hot with butter dripping off the sides: utterly delicious.

Scotch pancakes have been known as mouse pies in my house ever since – to the bemusement (and slight worry) of any guests.

Living on a farm, feeding three hungry men and three even hungrier children, my mother did a lot of cooking, and of course, being the eldest child, I cooked too. Then there was Miss Booth, my "Domestic Science" teacher, who taught me the arcane secrets of flaky, puff and choux pastry. Oh, and stuffed liver too, but that recipe is perhaps best forgotten!

My point is that I grew up cooking. My husband is still amazed when I can throw together a sponge cake and have it in the oven inside ten minutes and on the table – still warm and with the jam melting inside – in under an hour. But I don't have to think about it; the knowledge and muscle memory is in my head; the ingredients are always in the cupboard; it's easy.

Now it's summer again, and Activity Week for the sailing cadets. Every year there seem to be more of them along the sea wall. This year there are fourteen and I've offered to cook for them all.

Other parents volunteer with boats and games and herding the children from one activity to another. I'm not very good with that: I don't socialise well and get stressed in crowds, but I can cook.

More difficult than cooking is coping with the gratitude from other parents. "Look," I say. "You have ferried my child over to the sailing club. You have helped her rig the boat and dived in with the organisation of sixty-seven children. I've just had a lovely quiet day cooking."

Cooking comes easily to me, but it doesn't to everyone. I am learning to value the gift I give, because others value it.

We all have gifts to contribute to the world. We often don't value those gifts ourselves because they come so easily. My friend Helen can wrangle half a dozen toddlers with one hand tied behind her back, whereas I would run screaming. Eric can fix anything: he just has a knack for seeing what is broken and how to mend it. Judith can run a committee meeting so that everything is discussed, decisions are made and the meeting ends of time! I am in awe of all these skills.

You have skills too. Please value what you have to give and give generously.


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