If you know me very well, you know that I used to abhor cooking. The term “cook” in MY kitchen meant either Green Bean Casserole, my famous chili or the drive thru. After marrying Todd however, I developed a love for the kitchen. Experimenting, perfecting, trying new things out. It pleases me to menu plan and feed my brood.
I loved my hanging pot rack and really loved my spice rack. I loved that my pots were well-used and worn. While I didn’t like the clean up portion of cooking, I LOVED the shopping, the planning and the cooking part immensely. I experimented with freezer cooking (whereby one weekend a month, I would shop in bulk and spend the sum of two days cooking, chopping and prepping meals for the next 2-3 weeks, all which would sit nicely in my freezer until it was their turn to be consumed).
We participated in a round robin style cooking process with several friends. One day per week, we all cooked our dinners, but made multiple batches, and then delivered them to each other. It was a brilliant plan, especially when it worked out just so that someone else delivered stuffed red peppers to our home on the nights I was responsible for coaching the soccer team.
When I first heard about the “norm” in India to have a staff, I thought (like all of my American friends), “HOW COOL!”. I mean, how spoiled to have an actual designated cook doing all of the drudgeries of running a household. No more grocery shopping (hooray!), someone else could tackle the food prep, the cooking AND the cleanup. Not to mention passing off the dishes duty.When our belongings arrived and the unboxing begun, I wanted desperately to unpack my kitchen. Put things where they belonged and get that portion of the house set up first. I was itching to locate my favorite coffee cup and arrange the kids’ lunchbox containers just so. Little did I know that it was no longer my job.
Rosy and Sushila (the cook and the maid) both set to that task immediately and actually SHOO’D me out of my own kitchen. See … the reality here in India is that it is no longer MY kitchen. It is Rosy’s kitchen.
Yes, I know. I can hear you now. ‘Naomi … don’t complain. Be glad that you get someone who does all of that FOR you. Think of what you can do with all of that extra time!’ The takeover didn’t stop with the unpacking of boxes. From the moment I entered my new home, the kitchen – as well as most of my other tasks that I assumed on behalf of my children – became … hers.
Being asked to give up the job of whipping up dinner, the satisfaction of hearing “that was really good, babe!”, and knowing I had successfully taken random ingredients from my pantry and created something delicious and healthy for my family, was extremely difficult.
I associate my success as a mother and a wife with the ability to feed them well. Their full bellies and contented smiles after dinner means I’ve succeeded as a mom. I know the feeling when dinner is burned, or when presenting filled plates, you receive sour puss looks, followed by “I don’t WANT this”. It feels like small failures.
I’ve spent a good portion of the last 6 years perfecting the balance of what’s healthy for my family and what they’ll actually eat, and have learned to not only enjoy it immensely, I thrive on the challenge to find where the scale evens out in the middle.
This having a cook gig not only takes away my control and my joy in providing for my family, it also requires some extra steps. Instead of relying simply on my memory power to remember what is a staple in my pantry, or what leftovers I have to work with, or what meat is in the freezer, it requires a daily conversation with Rosy about that day’s menu plan.
Realizing that it doesn’t seem like a big deal to simply have a 10 minute conversation about tonight’s dinner … the reality is that those 10 minutes virtually ends my responsibility for that part of raising a family. The problem is again with control. After 14 years of being the SOLE decision maker on what my family needs to fill their belly, I … with the simple act of boarding of an airplane … have now relinquished the safety and health of my children to someone I barely know.
We will eventually figure out this cooking business and I will provide Rosy with a week’s worth of menus, with the list of ingredients needed and the recipes. We will have our morning chats to ensure that she understands what ingredients we need, and so that I understand what ingredients might not be available at the local markets or at the “Sugar and Spice grocery store.”
I have begun to insist that our meat come from somewhere a bit more “normal” instead of arriving at the house, in a black plastic bag, still warm (you get what I mean, right?) and we will figure out a balance of when I choose to do the grocery shopping vs. Rosy taking that responsibility.
It has been decided that I will be the one in the kitchen every morning to get my children their breakfast. It’s also been agreed that no one will come up from their quarters until 9:00am so that I can enjoy my coffee in peace. Because she loves her dearly and enjoys squeezing her cheeks and plopping her up on the counter to teach her Hindi, Rosy will provide lunch for Mia. And for me, I will work on my struggle to give up control over one of the KEY elements of being a mom/wife to this family and will give Rosy the controls.
After all, she quietly works in the kitchen all day long to provide great meals for us that are seemingly magically ready at the appointed hour of 6:00 pm … and once we’ve finished our meal, she reappears to do all of the cleanup. “My kitchen” has NEVER before been this clean 24/7.
[By the way … our first Indian food here in the house was a huge success. Rosy made Aloo Gobi (cauliflower and potatoes), dal (beans) and chipati. Mia tasted her serving but deemed it too ‘picy. Tony ate his entire helping and well, Terran and I licked our plates. I’m hoping to implement Indian food into our menu plan twice per week, with Western style food being the main option. Rosy is a great cook and makes the most wicked brownies you’ve tasted … this side of the ocean! Don’t tell anyone, but we’re going to keep making Mac N Cheese on Indian dinner nights until the littles have developed more of a taste for it.]
[Side note: Rosy’s employment didn’t last long. While she was wonderful to our family, in the end her desire for full control of decisions, parenting choices and how our home life played out clashed too strongly with mine and we found a new cook, Shanti. The final straw was one afternoon when I was insisting that the children make their OWN beds in the morning and clean up their OWN toys, Rosy responded “this is my house to run, and I know what’s best.” I slammed my hand on the counter and retorted “it may be your house to run, but they are my children and this is MY family.” I’m not proud of the angry tone I exhibited towards her, but it was an important moment in my new role as a “ma’am”. From that moment on, I realized that while it takes a village to raise a family – and in our case, a staff of NINE – my role as a mother and wife could never be taken away simply because someone else was sharing the responsibility to care for my family.]