My family shares their love through food. Whether it’s a holiday or Tuesday, my childhood was filled with memories of platters and saucers full of homemade food. Family functions that involved extended family included exponentially more food. Little has changed to this day. You will not go hungry.
When I got older – 16, 17 years-old – I felt an obligation to contribute to these food feasts. Albeit the intrepid high school student that I was, I bypassed asking my mother, father or family members for cooking guidance. Hell, I didn’t even open a cook book. I walked straight into the kitchen. I deduced that if you wanted to make something, you just combine some ingredients and you’re golden.
I called these cooking adventures “experiments”. Simply put, I was more of a scientist in a lab than a cook in a kitchen. The ingredients and foods I tried to combine were ridiculous. I was not afraid to to fail. For example, I crafted an experiment – err, recipe – called “Ranch eggs”. My thought process:
Eggs = good
Ranch dressing = delicious
Ranch Dressing flavored Eggs = deliciously good
Now, before you start thinking about my inevitable digestion problems, I wouldn’t be the only one slamming down Pepto-Bismol. Sadly, out of all the possible opportunities to involve my kitchen-gifted family, the only time I involved my family in my cooking is when I asked “Can you taste this?”
So sad. Yet, my family is so kind, they ate my food.
I’m sure my mother pondered the texture of the food. My sister wondered if the food was fully cooked. My father questioned if my future apartment would be filled with microwave dinners and fast food bags. All of those questions and concerns flooded their heads as I presented my shiny, buttery ranch eggs on the table. My ranch eggs were not my only “experiment”, and it would not be the last. I kept trying and trying and trying…
…and trying and trying…
…and then I got better.
One Christmas Eve – I believe 3-4 years after Ranch Eggs – I was living on my own in my apartment and I wanted to bring some sugary sweets. My previous experiences told me that I should open a cook book, so I did. With a fully loaded kitchen and baking tools I had mooched off my mom when I moved out, I began to bake. I made 9 batches of cookies.
Batches 1-3 were burnt.
Batches 4-6 were better, but not good enough for a family function.
Batches 7-9 were awesome. My family loved them. Ever since then, I’ve brought cookies for Christmas – each time a different recipe, each time getting better and better. My Christmas cookies are something that my family looks forward to during the holidays.
But my growth hasn’t stopped there. Today, I’m cooking 6-7 dinners a week; and my wife loves my cooking. Sure, I still wasn’t that great when we first met, but she did share “I knew you’d eventually get better. You just kept trying”. And I’ve gotten better. I’m making tacos, nachos, seasoned chicken and ground beef, Spanish rice, and really good scrambled eggs. I’m baking cookies, muffins, cupcakes, and pastas. Most nights I’m searching through my Betty Crocker Cookie cook book, Better Homes cook book, or Allrecipes.com so I can learn about new ingredients and cooking techniques. Although cooking is not really a hobby of mine, I get great satisfaction that I can make great food from scratch.
And, yes, I’m still experimenting, but now I have a very high success rate.
Moral of the Story: Never stop trying. Never stop learning.
From my cooking beginnings, anyone who saw my ranch eggs could state “Sir, I believe you have room to grow”, or maybe “Sir, these eggs are an offense to people, chickens, and where ever ranch comes from.”
Luckily, my cooking never got such negative reviews. My family was always kind – perhaps they have strong stomachs?
Whatever the case, it’s the mindset – the pursuit of learning and perfecting your practice – that fueled me to keep trying to cook; and it’s the same mindset that fuels my professional development and learning as an early childhood educator. I’m starting my sixth year in early childhood education and, despite all of the information and resources I provide on this blog, I push myself to learn more and more. This was the same mindset I had in 2009 during my first year of early childhood, it is the same today, and it will be 10 years from now, 20 years from now, and beyond.
You should never stop learning. You should never stop trying new techniques or ideas. Most of all, you should not be afraid to fail. Just like there is no end to improving as a cook, there is no end to improving your practice as a teacher, assistant, manager, administrator, or advocate. You simply don’t reach the end of the “early childhood knowledge road”. There is no end to what you can learn.
Good message for the kiddos, yeh?