Coping mechanisms. We all have them. We all do them. And, most of the time, they make us feel better, right? Kind of. Changingminds.org has this to say:
“We are complex animals living complex lives in which we are not always able to cope with the difficulties that we face. As a result, we are subject to feelings of tension and stress, for example the cognitive dissonance and potential shame of doing something outside our values. To handle this discomfort we use various coping methods.”
Some ways of dealing with stress are better than others, of course. Some can be downright destructive. But others, they can be so good. How is it that you deal with new situations, things you think you can’t handle, days that just seem to be no good? I know what I like to do – cook. I like to do pretty much anything with my hands, really. Painting, crafting, drawing, coloring (yes, in coloring books. Go ahead and laugh if you must.), decorating, gardening… but, oh how I love to cook. And yes, I count baked goods right along in there when I use the word “cook.”
There’s just something about being able to create something new, beautiful (hopefully!), and delicious out of a bunch of other stuff that may not always be together. Then, being able to supply someone else with a treat that will help nourish their body, fill them up, and perhaps give them a bit of joy as well – what could be better?
I finally got to see Julie & Julia one afternoon this week when all I felt like doing was laying in the dark – I had a headache and had finished my classes for the day already, so why not. Several of my friends have said that mere minutes into this film, they all thought of me. I thought that was sweet and wonderful, and now that I’ve seen it myself, I know this movie most certainly had to have been made for me. Nearly everything that either the characters of Julie or Julia said resounded with me in such a way that I actually spent a good deal of the movie teary-eyed.
Very much like the situation I currently find myself in, both women were moved around and transplanted from what they knew, often had a terrible kitchen and no space to work with, dealt with feelings of insufficiency, felt the desire to do something more with their lives outside of the 9 to 5 day, wanted to somehow enrich the lives of others, and they both had husbands who loved to eat. They both took comfort in knowing that when they were in the kitchen, they had to power to create something good, something useful, maybe even something great.
Perhaps my favorite line of the movie occurs only 8 minutes in, when after a rough day at work, Julie sees a chocolate window display on her walk home. Instantly upon seeing this, she says to herself “mm… chocolate cream pie” and the movie cuts to her preparing such a treat in her tiny apartment kitchen. In telling her husband about her mess of a day, she says:
“You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure – and when I say nothing, I mean nothing… you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. It’s such a comfort.”
Exactly. When all else goes awry, you know that there is still something you can do, something you can create, that will always turn out the same. You all know already how much I love the kitchen. It’s in the blood passed on to me from a long line of women who not only can, but enjoy being able to cook. (Yep, thanks Mom, Aunt Lori, Nana, Nanny, Gram…) When moving overseas, I thought that would be the one thing, the one piece of myself, that I would be able to successfully transplant no matter where I would be. Nothing could change that, right? Well, kinda.
We’ve been here for 8 months now, and it seems that just now I am getting my groove back. Back in the States, I could whip up a party menu, prepare it all myself, and serve a group of people with no problem. It was easy, fun, and ever so enjoyable. I could buy whatever I needed, my home had a controllable climate and windows to keep out the dust, and I had the space to do the work that I needed to do. Here in Thailand, I have a tiny space with only an oven and a sink, no control over the heat and humidity in my house, and a market severely lacking in much of the ingredients and utensils that I am used to. Without knowing how to adapt from the get-go, I felt that I’d really lost a big piece of my identity, a big piece of who I am. And, that doesn’t feel good when you already know that nothing else is the same either.
Lately, I’ve been getting it back though. I’ve spent the past several months experimenting and researching recipes (and sometimes, just plain winging it!) for meals that I can adapt to what is available to me here in our small city. I’ve had to learn how to make recipes that “require” a food processor, mixer, or blender with one bowl, a spatula, and a hand-held pastry blending tool. It’s almost as though I’ve had to learn how to cook all over again… and, I think I’ve finally got it. It’s wonderful to feel that I’m getting a little bit of myself back as I continue to learn how to adapt to my surroundings, not only in Thailand of course, but also in the kitchen. It makes me happy when, after eating, the Mr. says to “put this in the make-again pile.”
All emotions and whatever else aside, I do love the movie Julie & Julia. Growing up, I often spent my Saturday mornings watching Julia Child, along with Yan Can Cook, Burt Wolf, and the Frugal Gourmet, all on PBS. No cartoons for me, no, I wanted to learn how to cook. I was amazed when Julia could make a beautiful cake or sauce, was in complete awe when Martin Yan would throw a dry block of cellophane noodles into a pan and they would puff up instantly, loved travelling with Burt all around the world discovering new cuisines, and learning simple meals from Jeff on FG. It was really neat to be able to see a little more into the life of one of these chefs, and see just how she came to be known as she is.
Someday, even if I’m 80 years old, I will go to culinary school. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little. 🙂