I do it myself

Being parents of a nearly three-year old, we hear that a lot around our house. It is, at best, a mixed blessing. There are many things she can now do for herself, but many of them aren’t the sort of thing you’d really want someone her age to do on a regular basis. *1* Still, it’s fun, and maybe a little sad, to watch her assert her independence, to watch her grow and learn and mature, to see what a wonderful little person she’s turning into.

With that said, the point of my title was actually to give me reason to talk about cooking for a moment. As you may know, I love to cook, it is one of my favorite things. This wasn’t always the case; I didn’t really start cooking until shortly after I got married. *2* Once I got in the kitchen, I it took over, owned it completely, and it has been my domain for nearly the entirety of our marriage. I don’t really have any other hobbies or interests, I’d prefer to watch a good *3* cooking show over almost any sporting event.

Almost from the start, I’ve wanted to do everything for myself. I wasn’t interested in semi-homemade or figuring out the best way to make boxed meals a little more special, no, I wanted to make food from scratch, myself. This is probably due to no small amount of hubris on my part, but I wanted to be in control of as many aspects of the meal as possible. If I was going to cook with it, I wanted to have made it myself. *4* This can lead to an infinite regress, as almost all of cooking involves relying on someone else for some aspect of the meal, and since there was no way Donnette was going to let me raise a goat/cow/pig/chicken in the backyard, I eventually became okay with taking at least some form of shortcut.

But the itch never really left, and from time to time I still find myself really tempted to return to my old ways. Because I’m home with two kids all day long, I’m not able to dedicate the same kind of time that I once had to being in the kitchen for hours on end, and so, I’ve taken to making my own breads, as they generally only need a few minutes of attention, and can then be ignored for long periods at a time. I’ve even found a way to make a pretty great baguette in my home oven, a skill I’m still pretty proud of. The itch didn’t end with bread though. Rock Hill doesn’t have as many interesting markets as Charlotte, but there are several places in this area where you can buy raw milk, from both sheep goats and cows, which has led me, on more than one occasion, to think about making my own cheese from scratch. *5* This being South Carolina, there is no part of the pig I can’t buy, and so I’ve also been tempted to make cure my own hams and make my own bacon. *6* Were it not for some of the specialty equipment *7* needed to properly make these things, I would probably be running my own general store by now, selling illegal cheeses out of the back of our mini-van.

Fortunately, I married a sensible woman, who helps to put things in perspective when I start to get carried away. “Do you know where we’re moving?” she’ll remind me, and I’m forced to admit that, while there probably are some missionaries who need to learn how to make everything from scratch, that will not be our particular burden to bear. Take, for example, cheese making. While the cheese scene is improving here in the States, there is probably still some merit in learning how to make cheese for yourself. In France, this isn’t so much the case. The French have over 400 national cheeses alone, meaning that if you only ate “official” state cheeses, it would take over a year to get through them all. *8* The same goes for bread, and meat, and for good measure, wine; that’s kind of France’s “thing.” If we get to France, and I’m stashed away somewhere making my own cheese, I’ve probably missed the point of working in France. I often talk about the various challenges we’re going to face when we get overseas, this is at least one area in which we will not suffer.

I do hope to ingratiate myself with butchers and cheese makers and bakers *9* once we’re in France, so that I can learn how to do all of these things properly. As missionaries, you’re always looking for ways to meet people, and when it comes to food, I won’t have to feign enthusiasm one little bit, so it’s my hope that will be a good “in.”

With all of that said, if someone wants to buy me that cheese book, I’m not above getting the learning process started a little early.

I’m preaching out-of-town again this weekend, thank you all so much for your support and prayers.


*1* Like Babysit

*2* The details of how I got into cooking are a little fuzzy, but basically, Donnette dared me to learn how to cook, and I am not one to back down from a dare.

*3* I say good, because now there are far more cooking shows on TV than there probably should be. I would not, for example, watch Giada whateverhernameis cut strawberries over the NFL. Or golf. But, if forced to pick between Sunday night football, and Sunday night Iron Chef, I’m going with the latter.

*4* For awhile I took this way too far, refusing to even use hot sauce or chili paste. Fortunately, this is something I’ve since gotten over.

*5* I’ve still got a cheese making book sitting on my Amazon wish list….

*6* Speaking of things that are sitting around, I have a 2 lbs piece of pure pork fat sitting in the fridge, waiting to be turned into lardo.

*7* Like an extra fridge.

*8* This assumes you only ate one cheese a day, which isn’t really how people eat cheese, especially my wife and daughter, who could both live off of cheese, but still.

*9* To my wife, and any one else who cares, I know these all have proper names, and I could have used them, but that might have made the non-Francophiles feel self-conscience, and that’s not really my style.

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