Life As a Crepe
Tonight, I found myself alone at a cooking class. There is nothing normal about this. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of cooking. I am about cooking the way Shauna Niequist says that she is about yoga in her book, Cold Tangerines:
“It’s good for me and helps me, and to be quite honest, I say I do it way more than I actually do. When someone asks, ‘Do you do yoga?’ I answer, ‘Absolutely, I love it. It totally makes me feel better.’
What I mean in the strictest sense, is that every week I intend to go to yoga three times and I occasionally make it to one class, and I have several pairs of yoga pants, and some yoga DVDs and flashcards, and every once in a while, if I’m feeling really bad, I do a few sun salutations before bed. So really, I’m yoga-ish.”
I am cooking-ish.
I will buy all of the ingredients for some amazing recipe that I saw on Pinterest, then completely forget about it until everything is slimy and wilted. Or, I will actually look at the recipe and realize that it requires appliances, pans, or advanced hand/eye coordination that I don’t have, and I will abandon the idea in haste.
There was a summer when I was home from college, when I decided that I wanted to learn to cook. I started with appetizers and never made it past them. (I do have some slam-dunk appetizers, however). I like to joke that I am good with drinks and starters. But it’s not really a joke.
The irony in all of this is that God, with His enduring sense of humor, chose to put me in the position of food writer (and then editor) for a local magazine. I sample and comment and pick out flavors and ooh and ahh. I wax poetic about delicate and wonderfully prepared food, but when forced to cook for myself, I usually make pasta, scrambled eggs, or a sandwich. I am in the position of knowing precisely what I am missing.
These thoughts were all swirling around in my head as I sat in a class which promised to teach me to make both sweet and savory crepes. I am a professional, and I realize that I am here to soak up the atmosphere and recommend the experience, but I’m also a person and I want to learn to make perfect crepes.
For me, the idea of cooking anything French is terrifying. Everything seems unspeakably elegant and complicated. A crepe is nothing like a pancake, even though you make a batter and flip it in a hot pan.
Our instructor deftly walks us through filling preparation. As she sautés, I am lulled into a wonderful serenity. I understand large chunks of butter, mushrooms, onions and spinach cooking together in a pan. But the moment doesn’t last.
All at once, we are stepping up to the stove, $100 “breakfast pans” in hand. (I am coveting one as we speak, after all, I am cooking-ish). I pour my dollop of batter into the center of the hot pan and twirl my wrist as my teacher demonstrates. A crepe forms, a crepe that looks like a sci-fi creature, but a crepe nonetheless. When I flip it, my crepe folds in half and my teacher moves to fix it. It bounces back and flops onto my plate, ready to be filled.
I made many more crepes over the course of several hours. Some of them were thick, others were thin. Some were round, oblong or hard-to-characterize. None of them were perfect.
Somewhere along the way, I started getting into it. I stood with another woman as our teacher told us that we needed to develop our own rhythm and movement. “Don’t be afraid to do it your own way, to make mistakes,” she said.
“So, it’s sort of like sex,” I said, before I could stop myself. The two married women looked at each other, then at me, the outspoken virgin, “Yes,” they said in unison.
It was only later that I realized that it was also like life.
It is only now, as I ponder the twist of wrist and the heat of the pan and the silky, buttery taste of those imperfect crepes, made with love (and a little anxiety), that I realize that at the end of each day, I can wipe out the pan, turn off the stove and put the batter back in the fridge, ready for the next one. If I’m feeling adventurous, I can grate a little orange zest into my batter. The batter recipe isn’t up to me, really. I can add little things here and there, but the base remains the same. That base makes my crepes resilient and flexible. I can pick them up and wave them around in the air without them breaking. They will not crumble at a little misstep. Neither will I.