December 18, 2011

What is the recipe of your success?

molly published this at 3:00 am

What kind of cook are you? The “measure-y, by the book” sort or the stir, sniff & sample sort? For what it’s worth, I think that not only does each approach have merit, but there are certain times when it pays to err on the side of the extreme of either. What goes into the stockpot of your life?

When I was a little girl, I used to perch on a stool in my grandma’s kitchen and watch as she cooked dinner for us. My knees drawn up under my chin and my arms wrapped around my skinny shins, I was mesmerized by her alchemy as she stood over the yellow enameled Chambers stove.

Grandma’s “composition” was 95 percent a “stir, sniff and sample”/5 percent “by the book” sort of cook. She had an innate grasp of the sorts of flavors that would complement each other and she had impeccable timing as she worked the gas jets under the various pans on the stove top.

However, for specific dishes, she followed her recipe cards, mottled with generations of spatterings of butter or ground-in flour, down to the letter. And why would an accomplished cook deign to use metered, measured rules, when her previous experience had shown her to be quite capable of cooking “on the fly?”

She had learned what other successful leaders already know: sometimes the rules exist for a reason while sometimes, rules are meant to be broken. She had come by this knowledge by trial and error, and perhaps through the wisdom of someone in her family who had passed down the recipes.

Cooking and becoming our own best selves share similar trajectories. For the purposes of today’s post, I’ve used quotes from a single source; a woman whose lessons in cooking and life often overlapped. It was another experience I shared with my grandma: watching Julia Child as The French Chef on PBS.

“I was thirty-two when I started cooking; up until then, I just ate.” ~ Julia Child

How many of us sleepwalk through a couple decades before we start to tune in to our own voice? How many of us are just mindlessly “consuming” our lives instead of “cooking what we eat?” Perhaps we gain a realization of our lives, our choices and our preferences as early as our 20s, but I would wager that for most of us, it is somewhere in the 30s, possibly even 40s.

What’s significant is the realization that we are not only the “cooks/creators” of our own lives, but we have the capacity to choose our own ingredients, so to speak. Just as I became more in tune with my cooking once I started gardening – nurturing the vegetables from seed to fruit – I realized that my life was also built from the relationships I nurtured… the people I allowed to surround me.

“Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it.” ~ Julia Child

Curiosity and interest are the natural companions of growth and creativity. When we are passionate about something, we wish to find out all we can about it. We devote time to becoming more adept at a skill in order to increase our enjoyment of our favorite subject. When we spend time engaged with something that interests us, we find that we exude a cheerfulness and magnetism that compels others to want to be around us.

“Nothing is too much trouble if it turns out the way it should.” ~ Julia Child

This is key, because as we go through the various stages of learning and developing mastery, we will encounter frustration and road blocks. From a cooking analogy standpoint, think of having to chill a bowl before whipping egg whites into peaks. The FASTEST course of action would be to grab any bowl out of the cupboard (even plastic, if it’s closest), crack a few eggs, strain them quickly and start beating them with whatever is handy (wooden spoon, fork etc). But if you understand the need for the chilled bowl, carefully separated eggs and the proper mixer, then you’ll appreciate the end result.

One of the other lessons I gleaned from helping my grandma cook was the appreciation of process. The process of preparation is as enjoyable as the finished product. This is a lesson I apply today when visiting a friend for dinner. I’ll arrive in the late afternoon, put on an apron, pour a glass of wine and help with the prep work. Over the dicing of onions, we get to chat about our lives, laugh about stories that naturally filter to the top of the conversation … all while the smells of dinner slowly surround us.

It’s the same with the process or progress to any other goal, although it may not be as directly relateable. Perhaps a challenge to ourselves is to become more mindful of the benefits of how the “simmering” portions of Our Becoming are manifested. Perhaps it’s as simple as awareness that we realize that we’re being patient.  Perhaps we notice an emerging proficiency or another developing strength. Whatever it may be, learn to identify and embrace process.

“It’s fun to get together and have something good to eat at least once a day. That’s what human life is all about – enjoying things.” ~ Julia Child

This is something that my grandma also taught me. I come from a very large Irish family. Our major holidays were spent with at least 40 people in the house at any given moment and (as I mentioned around Thanksgiving on twitter), we had so many cousins, that I was regulated to the Third Tier Kids Table in the kitchen. But for my grandma, building a meal was analogous to building relationships – with oneself or with others. Whether forged over the stovetop or while passing the salt, cooking was a way to teach, nurture, feed and cultivate her family. And that’s what human life is all about: appreciating and enjoying each other and ourselves.

Bon Appétit!

——-

Molly Cantrell-Kraig is a woman with drive. Possessing an innate sense of purpose and a pragmatic, solution-based approach to empowering people, she fused these two traits in order to establish Women With Drive Foundation. Based upon its founder’s personal history, Women With Drive Foundation is a means through which Cantrell-Kraig may effect change on both a micro and macro level. By providing women with something as essential as personal transportation in order to transition them from poverty to prosperity, she, through Women With Drive Foundation, seeks to empower women to help them help themselves. Through this action, the individual applicant benefits, as does society as a whole. Follow Molly on twitter as @mckra1g or @WWDr1ve (Women With Drive Foundation) or “Like” them on facebook.

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