“You have made the moon to mark the seasons; the sun knows its time for setting” (Psalm 104:19).
Last week, Mike and I drove our youngest child to college in Massachusetts. And now, for the first time in decades, my husband and I have the house to ourselves. It isn’t the unnatural quiet that seems strange, or that there’s no longer a half-hour wait for the shower, or that the laundry can accumulate for more than 24 hours without overflowing the hamper. What unsettles me most is the meal prep.
It wasn’t long ago that making a run-of-the-mill family dinner meant broiling 18 hamburgers, oven-roasting a sack of potatoes and prepping a peck of leafy greens. Quantity cooking was the norm, and I had mastered it.
In the new normal, however, I find myself struggling to scale down recipes instead of scaling them up. What’s more, I need a calculator to do it. (In case you’re wondering, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves in a recipe serving 12 will convert to 0.0416666667 teaspoon when the recipe serves two.)
To be honest, this isn’t the first time I’ve been culinarily challenged. Before Mike and I married, I was at a complete loss in the kitchen. My ineptitude baffled Mike, who had assumed that his Italian fiancée could cook like Giada De Laurentiis. Thankfully, it took only one dramatic incident to convince Mike of my noncook status.
It happened one day when Mike, who was making a beef stew, asked me about garlic cloves: Was a garlic clove one of those 10 little segments in the papery white ball of garlic? Or was a garlic clove the papery white ball of garlic itself?
Eager to help, I told Mike all that I “knew” about cooking with garlic. And that’s how a beef stew for four ended up being seasoned with 20 garlic cloves, and a stewpot in a small kitchen in Queens, New York managed to suffuse an entire city building with a pungent smell of garlic that lingered for days. Four days, to be exact.
That was in 1983. Throughout the ensuing decades, I managed to acquire cooking skills through trial and error, willing domesticity, and many edifying “smells and bells” mishaps involving burnt dinners and ringing smoke alarms.
The kitchen capers multiplied as my family grew, and I was exhilarated, challenged and blessed by them. I had almost convinced myself that the delightful days of outsized casseroles and vat-capacity soups would never end. But those days have ended.
Our Heavenly Father has ordained that each of us should pass through different seasons of life, many of them joyful, others poignant or even sorrowful. Scripture tells us that “He changes times and seasons, deposes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding” (Daniel 2:21).
Yes, we sometimes struggle to find purpose in a particular season of life. There are times when I wish that I could trade in my wisdom for just one more year of tripling recipes, eking out ingredients, and juggling skillets and saucepans on a too-small stove. But in those moments, it’s good to recall that “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert” (Isaiah 43:18-19).
“The Catholic Storyteller” is a monthly column by Celeste Behe, a parishioner of St. Theresa of the Child Jesus, Hellertown. Find her online at www.CelesteBehe.com.