Pursuing Perfection

I had an experience today that brought home to me once again that the Critic is something I fight in my daily life as well as in writing, and that I often do things that make it even easier for the Critic to get some punches in.

Probably everyone says this, but it’s true for me.  My grandmother was a great cook.  She passed when I was in seventh grade, but I still have very vivid memories of Saturday afternoons in her kitchen, homemade beef noodle soup on the stove, fresh cinnamon rolls warming on top of the wood stove, and pies cooling on the counter.  My grandma was the first person to put milk instead of water in my tomato soup and to make me a gingersnap cookie.  I won’t pretend that my picky younger self loved every single thing my grandma ever cooked, but I always loved eating as a family, and I especially loved seeing the smile on my grandma’s face when we raved about what to her was a very minimal gift.

Now I’m grown up, and one of my favorite things  is to have family and friends over for a meal. It’s not an every Saturday sort of thing, but I do it whenever I can.  I don’t know that I actually enjoy cooking so much as I enjoy bringing everyone together, giving the gift of food prepared with love and taking the gift of love and conversation and time spent in return.

Which brings us to today.

Due to my new work schedule, I now eat “lunch” at 9am.  I have been bringing traditional lunch food, and that’s worked out fine, but towards the end of last week I was really starting to think about preparing some breakfast food on the weekend to take for leftovers during the week.  I invited my family over for brunch today as a way of nudging myself into actually taking that step instead of just thinking about it. 

It might have worked a little too well!  Before I knew it I had talked myself into making three recipes (sausage egg casserole because that’s what I’d been imagining, vegetarian egg casserole because my brother’s a vegetarian, and peach french toast because it’s so darn good.)  Both egg recipes were new to me.  I did five loads of laundry yesterday and cleaned the house in addition to grocery shopping.  The vegetarian egg casserole and the peach french toast needed to be refrigerated overnight, so I prepared those last night as well.  Suddenly it’s 9pm and I’m exhausted (I’ve been getting up at 3am, so 9am after a busy day is quite a bit past my bedtime.).

I woke up this morning and finished the housecleaning and started preparing the food, only to realized I’d put the vegetarian egg dish in the oven an hour too early. 

And then 9am came around and my growling stomach pointed out to me that scheduling brunch at 11am, two hours after I am used to eating my first major meal of the day, was probably not a great idea.

So, fighting low blood sugar because I had a cup of yogurt instead of the full breakfast I needed, I proceeded to brown the sausage by itself instead of with the onion the recipe called for.  I also put it in the oven for 30 of the 60 minutes it needed to bake without covering it.  And then I did the same thing with the peach french toast.

By this time, I have to say I was not expecting great things from brunch at this point.  I was sure the vegetarian casserole would be cold, and the french toast and the sausage casserole would be dry.  And that doesn’t even cover the bacon that got a little too reheated in the microwave as well.

But you know what?  Someone was really watching out for me today, because everything came out great.  The sausage casserole was awesome (We ate it all – so much for leftovers!), and the peach french toast was delicious.  Mom brought cinnamon rolls and Barbara brought fresh raspberries and pink grapefruit and oranges.  It was really a lovely meal.  Even better was having all of us around the table enjoying each other’s company.  There was so much positive energy in the room, I can still feel it.

So what does this have to do with the Critic, you ask?

First of all, dinners for my family can’t be so-so, they have to be amazing.  Hence my decision to bake three different entrees instead of one, or even two.  And heaven forbid I serve them a recipe I’ve actually made before (Except chicken pot pie.  We all love that!).  So I end up with  two new recipes that weren’t especially complicated but that did require me to carefully read and follow directions, paving the way for lots of little things to go wrong.

Scheduling it at 11am instead of 9, or even 10 wasn’t so much an attempt to sabotage myself as it was fact that we almost always have brunch at that time (my brother and I are not early birds as a rule) and I simply forgot to take my new work and eating schedule into account.  But it was still something to kick myself with while I was trying to apply tinfoil without burning myself.

First and foremost I am taking away a whole bunch of new memories of a great day with my family.  I have a couple delicious new recipes, too.  But there is no denying that I’m also coming away from today with a strong reminder of how important it is to be reasonable and realistic with ourselves not just with the goals and expectations we have for our artistic selves, but for the balance of our lives as well.  Our inner artist shares space with our work self and our family self, and what happens to one can happen to all.  We must be kind to every part of ourselves. 

Today reminded me that sometimes it really is enough to take a step or two rather than running the whole race at once.  I hope all of you get to really enjoy those baby steps, too.


3 Replies to “Pursuing Perfection”

  1. Yeah.

    Totally get this. In spades.

    I love your comment that our artist self shares space with our work self and family self. That's a really holistic and healthy way to look at it, and I really like the metaphor because, at least for me, it's so apt.

    I'm so glad that everything turned out all right. I also like that you turned what could have been an unpleasant experience into a happy, joyful family time as well as a learning experience. Awesome.

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