walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

In Which I Will Probably Piss Everyone Off

I was enjoying the latest entry at the New Old Age (about training empathy for older folks by simulating aging -- you know: funny glasses, gloves, cotton balls in the ears, etc.) and the comments, and I was struck how there were a couple of strong threads. One of those threads was, geez, guys, why do you need a _class_ to learn to be empathetic!?! With a little, gosh, wow, why are you working with older folk if you have to learn to be empathetic. The other thread was confessional, along the lines of, I feel so bad I was so unempathetic one time when and then I learned better when and gosh I'm sorry.

Both threads I have a lot of sympathy for.

I think I have mentioned, once or twice, that I like to cook and I have done quite a lot of it over the years. I have also mentioned that I am so accustomed to adjusting recipes for my problems, the dietary constraints of my friends and preferences all 'round that I honestly cannot leave well enough alone and just do what the recipe says. Also, I've always been more inclined to substitute than to make a special trip to the store...or wait until the next shopping trip.

I was thinking (and telling J.) today about how over the years a number of friends have eaten something I cook, gotten the recipe from me (or pulled it off my website), tried to make it, and not had the success they had hoped for and asked me to help them debug the process. I always try to be very careful (duh -- I only have so many friends and I _like_ them so I don't want to frighten them away) in this situation and I worry a lot about possibly offending them. But when I see someone Violating a Basic Rule of Cooking Right In Front of Me and I'm Going to Be Eating the Results -- I'm often not very tactful in that situation. Last night, after me repeatedly saying, meat first, veg second, to R. and making sure he understood the order, I completely _lost it_ because he'd put the veg in with the meat. Because that's what the cookbook was open to. I eventually hauled out my recipe (which I'd been too lazy to find and had thus reproduced the way I'd originally created it) and used it to confirm to him that _yes_ this is how I do it and _yes_ this is why (I don't like the veg to disappear into the goo so characteristic of a certain kind of southern cooking).

I did this years ago to S. when he was making pancakes. He'd stirred the batter and it had just finished combining and I was happy he was about to stop before he made them tough and nasty. And at _this point_ he picks up the bowl and starts _beating the pancake batter_. I _yelled_ at him. (Honestly, I should have started yelling at him much earlier in the relationship. It would have been shorter, among other things, which would have been to the good. At least, _my_ good.) He was shocked. This was the way his mom always did it (yeah, and _how_ did her pancakes turn out? Light and fluffy? Nooooooo. Duh.). You want the batter to be completely smooth, right? NOOOOOOO!

I actually _get_ (and always have) that people need to learn math, and people who have forgotten the process make crap math teachers/tutors. I have a lot of stories about cooking. They go way back. But it is probably true that I don't remember enough about the process of learning to cook to actually be any good at all helping someone else learn. Maybe I can occasionally help debug a specific problem. But R. is _fantastic_ at taking a recipe and _actually following it_ to really good results (which, frankly, I am unable to do, because I cannot seem to stop myself from changing it). His ability to cook according to my directions (unless written down in the form of a recipe) however is really, really, really limited. We've had this problem more than once (last time, if was the Navy Bean Soup, because he really believed the carrot/celery ratio was 1-1, when Everyone Knows it's 1 carrot for 2 stalks celery in every dish known to humanity that contains both; he insisted on doing it his way and was a little disappointed about how heavy it was on carrots. Duh.).

The problem appears to be two-fold: first, I am not a recipe in a cookbook and thus do not seem to get the same kind of respect; second, he doesn't ask why and I don't volunteer explanations for all the little things he gets hung up on.

I gotta wonder, how many of my friends have I annoyed this way before? Could be significant. I sincerely apologize. But I can't pretend it'll change any time soon.
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