Growing up I had absolutely no interest in cooking. I could make cereal. I could also make amazing buttered toast. That was it. I would gladly sample cookie dough and grudgingly decorate Christmas cookies but the world was filled with interesting things, none of which were happening in our oven. Also, I had two parents who were pretty good cooks, so why bother?
You would think reality would have hit my freshman year of college. It did not. College also had people who cooked for you. It was called the dining hall. I made good use of it and when I didn’t like what they offered, there was still cereal and buttered toast. I continued to float through life with absolutely zero culinary skills.
Then I got my first apartment.
I remember my first non cereal meal in my apartment. I decided to make ramen noodles because they were cheap and didn’t require any cooking skills whatsoever. They turned out terrible. Not just in a ramen is disgusting way, but really truly terrible. Apparently ramen does require cooking skills and also the directions on those things are very vague. My roommate then walked into the kitchen, looked at my bowl of disgustingness and said “Huh, that’s interesting. Most people don’t drain the noodles before they add the seasoning packet.”
That was my very first cooking lesson.
I was a little intimidated by the whole ramen noodle experience so I really didn’t venture too much further into the world of cooking. For the rest of the time I lived in that apartment my menu consisted of cereal with milk, yogurt with an apple and a granola bar, and 1/2 packet of ramen with an orange.
I may have been a bit malnourished.
My next apartment was shared with two other girls, both of whom were going to school to become chefs. One of the first mornings I lived there I walked into the kitchen where both of my roommates were hard at work. One of them turned to me and said “Oh good, you’re here! Were making breakfast together. I’m making muffins and she’s making a fruit salad. Why don’t you scramble some eggs?”
I grabbed the eggs out of the fridge, I grabbed a pan out of a cupboard, and then I stared at the stove. Then I started to cry. You see, I was very good at math. I could write brilliant papers. I only missed three points in my entire Physics 101 class. As smart as I thought I was, I could not figure out how to make scrambled eggs.
The most frustrating thing was that my roommate COULD scramble eggs. Not only that, she could bake and decorate breathtaking cakes. She could plan and prepare elaborate seven course meals that would turn out all perfectly cooked at the same time. She was truly a genius in the kitchen. This was extremely frustrating for me because this roommate was also what I would have called “dumber than a box of rocks”.
I had just spent three hours the night before trying to explain multiplication to this girl. She still didn’t get it. I’m not talking about complex multiplication either. I had spent three hours trying every way I could think of trying to help her complete a single worksheet on multiplying and dividing by 10. She absolutely couldn’t wrap her head around it.
And yet here she was walking me through scrambling a stupid egg while I blinked back the tears of my shame. Later that night I realized something that no one ever taught me in all of my education classes.
Everyone is really good at a few things.
Also, no one is really good at everything.
As flaky as my roommate seemed to me, she was really good at some things. Not only could she cook like a professional, she could bring almost any man to his knees with just a wink. When I would wink at boys, they would offer to bring me to the hospital for the facial seizure I was having. She was also amazing socially, causing everyone to think of her as their good friend. I think we’re all aware that I may struggle a little in that department.
While I was pulling out my hair at her lack of understanding math, she was going crazy wondering how the heck someone gets to be 21 years old and not know how to cook an egg. While I was correcting her grammar, she was correcting my social skills.
When you think about it from the perspective of survival, her skills were actually more important than mine. If you needed to repopulate the earth, are you going to choose the girl who can feed herself, not offend anyone enough to make them want to kill her, and get any man to want to father her children? Or are you going to choose the girl who can’t do any of those things, but knows how to find the f of x and how to use a semicolon correctly? (I’m just kidding; no one knows how to use a semicolon correctly!)
So I have to make stuff for a bake sale tomorrow. I started out by making fresh strawberry cupcakes with meyer lemon buttercream. Sounds pretty fancy, yes? I was feeling like I had really come a long way. Then I took the brown and pink cups of mush out of the oven and pitched them in the garbage, because I’m still not a very good cook.
I can still do some things very well. I still cannot do other things very well at all, and that’s okay. We were not created to be the best at everything. We were created to have relationships with each other and sometimes our weaknesses help us out a little with that.
So maybe we stop competing with each other so much. Maybe we just appreciate the Flakys of the world for what they can do, and we appreciate the Snarkys of the world for what they can do, and we all do our best to use our gifts to make the world a little better. I promise not to make you eat my ramen noodles and you promise not to subject me to the thing that you are terrible at. I will keep writing and you bake those damn strawberry cupcakes. I’m sure they will be fabulous.