One of my biggest fears before getting married was my complete inability to cook. Mark didn't cook, I didn't cook, and the stories I have about kitchen mishaps and outright disasters abound the first few years of our marriage.
While plenty of marriages have husbands gifted in culinary skills, I knew that this was something I wanted to be good at. My desire was to be at home with our children, and I knew that to do this would shift the roles of our household to make me the primary food maker. This was a daunting order for a girl who could live off rice, raw veggies, and peanut butter for the rest of her life.
It was nearly four or five years in to our marriage that I finally felt like we had a groove. I could make decent dinners, and we even hosted guests at our house with me doing all the cooking. I had come a long way. Still, as one child turned to three, and three has turned into another on the way, there are still wide gaps that need improvement. The first one is lunch. We don't love sandwiches, and I like to save my chopping and pots and pans for dinner. The second is baking.
For the past seven years, I can count on one hand the number of times I actually baked. The Ritz crackers I put peanut butter on and dip in chocolate don't count. There were a number of attempts at cookies that were either to crumbly or hard as a rock, and banana bread that overflowed from the loaf pan so much it started a fire. No, I resigned myself, baking is not for me.
Then, as we get more settled in our home and the cupboards seemed chronically bare from the boxes of processed junk that didn't last more than one snacktime, something shifted. After a $6.00 box of Goldfish crackers evaporated the day after I bought it, and the pop tarts I bought as a treat caused a battle of the wills with begging children constantly asking for more,I began to wonder if I could try baking again.
My theory was that I would save a ton of money on snack food if the boys had a muffin or sweet breads available to them at snack times, and that if I did make cookies and treats regularly, the sugar rationing I previously had in place wouldn't turn them into monster-sugar-bingers. After all, I rationalized, my flour, eggs and sugar can't be any more unhealthy than Fruit Roll-Ups and Cheez-Its.
There was something else, too. I had visions of being that mom, who emanated warmth and happiness from the love she put into cooking for her family. Love it or hate it, there is something remarkably special about food and togetherness. We are all together in the breaking of the bread. It's significant in all cultures, and I wanted food to be part of that special haven my children call their home.
Now that the summer is drawing to a close, I am satisfied where I have come in this self-improvement category. I not only baked cookies, but I baked good cookies, in many varieties, no less. I tinkered with a banana bread recipe until (just yesterday!) I told the boys that I just might have got it right. The banana muffins that were previously my only card to play in the baking department, has now grown to several types of muffins, including one I'm working on delightfully called "Carmel Apple Cinnamon."
"It's not all hopeless", I would have told myself seven years ago as a new bride. "You can do this, and you can be good at it. Maybe someday you can be really good."
And let me just tell you, that the Hesitant Homemaker didn't get this name for nothing. If the girl who googled how to make a baked potato can learn to bake, and actually find some enjoyment in it, there is hope for everyone.