When I got married at 19 years old, I didn’t know how to cook. I blame my sister Carolyn for this (not really, but it’s fun to say so). We were the two oldest of my mother’s 7 kids, and my usual duties were to take care of the little kids, help with laundry, set the table, do the dishes. Carolyn learned to cook and told me I was too feeble to even boil water, what with always having my head in a book (until someone caught me at it). So there I was—19, newly married, full of all the ideas about what a Wife should be, and one of her primary duties was to have dinner on the table when her husband got home. (She should also look pretty.) I did learn to boil water. And I loved trying new recipes. But I had in my mind that making lasagne was “hard.” I don’t know where I got this idea, but there it was. So one day I decided to make this hard-to-make dish, and of course it wasn’t hard; it was easy. Time consuming but easy.
Jump ahead about 15 years and I’m a “returning student” at the local community college, taking only one class because college is “hard.” I did much better than I expected to, enjoyed the class, thought I could branch out. So I took an English class, and when I did well in that one, too, I took another English class. In this one, we had to read The Iliad. Well! I had heard of The Iliad—vaguely—and knew it to be “hard” to read. I figured my college career was about to be over. Imagine my surprise when I not only understood what I was reading—I actually liked it! After that, Shakespeare was a beach read! (Not really, but you get my drift.)
I don’t know where I get these ideas of things being too hard for me to do/read/try. And I’m also stumped as to why I continue to believe that some things are hard. I’ve tried all kinds of recipes in the last 50 years, with some memorable disasters—like the time I made the gravy explode—but those challenges also led to some cooking and baking I do that absolutely no one I know has ever tried. Ever heard of Singing Hinnies? I rest my case.
So here we are in the 21st century and after taking one class back in 1977, I went on to get a BA and an MA in English. It was time consuming, but I wouldn’t say it was hard. OK, it was challenging. So I’ve read a lot of “hard” books and enjoyed most of them (let’s not talk about Ulysses or Moby Dick, ok?). So a couple of weeks ago, Hug put together a list of movies she had heard about, and on the list was Cloud Atlas. Now Hug doesn’t read movie reviews. She likes to decide for herself what to watch, and she likes what she likes without the influence of Roger Ebert (God rest his soul). I, however, love a good movie review as much as I love a good book review. They are their own genre. They don’t replace the primary source, but they give me insights into what I’m about to watch or what I’m about to read. And that’s probably where I got the idea that Cloud Atlas (book or movie) was brilliant, awful, confusing, choppy, stupid, smart, whatever. So I put off watching the movie with Hug, and finally one night I thought, oh well—sure—let’s get on with it. After the first hour, Hug hit pause and we looked up at each other and said at the same time, “Fantastic!”
I loved Cloud Atlas the movie so much that I bought the book. And I loved the book so much that I watched the movie again. Now I am feeling that familiar sadness I get when I finish a really good book: I miss the people and the places. And this: What the heck am I going to read next that could possibly grab me the way this one grabbed me! (I go through this so often you’d think I’d know there’s another wonderful grabbing-book coming up and I probably already own it and it’s on one of my shelves of books I’ve bought but haven’t read yet.)
I don’t make lasagne much anymore. I don’t know why.