In every hero’s journey, or in my case, heroine’s, there is a call to action.  There’s some problem to solve, some question to answer.

On Monday night, that call to action came once again in the form of Sofi asking, “Mami, what’s for dinner?”

So many times I’ve met that call with dread, anxiety and aversion.  Practically speaking, that call has been met by a Domino’s pizza guy or the sweet old Asian man who delivers regularly from Sushi Maki.

In the past couple of months, I don’t know that I have become a better “chef”.  That said, it is something just to recognize that I consider myself a “chef” in any capacity.  I definitely don’t feel compelled to cater parties, nor do I day dream about things like how I can incorporate rosemary or cumin into a dish.  What I have found, is that I can celebrate my family and my friendships. I can bring comfort and show affection.  I have found that with some courage, discipline and patience, I can define that role of “chef” for myself.  I can answer the call.blog paola

I began this challenge with so many strong and harsh feelings about what it meant to be a woman who cooks.  I held a contention that somehow made me feel more independent, more liberated more at ease.  In reality, I had made myself a slave to that idea. In the same way that any statement that begins with “I’m not the kind of person who…” is just a shackle, a delusion, a limitation.

So this week, when my sweet and hungry little girl presented me with the challenge, I knew how to respond. With my Wok, some rice, left over chicken, eggs and a few slices of deli ham, I was able to answer the call.

For years I’d look at my refrigerator as a vault of disappointment.  I saw things in three categories:  what I should eat, what I shouldn’t eat, and what is not edible.

Now, my relationship with my refrigerator has changed quite a bit.  Like a magician’s trunk, not only can I make a dinner happen when I’ve got hours to traipse about town buying this and buying that, I’ve learned I can make something out of seemingly nothing.

On Monday night, that something was Fried Rice with Chicken and Ham. It was the perfect mish mosh of comfort and creativity, it was the perfect meal to end this journey.

Originally I had imagined I’d make some big meal and host all my family and close friends.  I’d have it on nice tables and plates and the whole neighborhood would be filled with aroma of my delicacy.  But that’s not who I am.  I’m still a single mom who works a lot.  I’m still a single mom who wants to be more for my children and for myself.

That “more” doesn’t come in the form of showing anything off to anyone else.  It’s in the quiet moment within my heart when I hear

“Mami, what’s for dinner?” that instead of dread, I feel delight.

So I’ve reached the end of my 10 week experiment and what I want to do is offer up a reflection on what this venture has meant to me.  It’s so simple to say “10 weeks”, but I invite all of you to pause and look back on your own 10 weeks, or at least, let today mark the beginning of a new set of 10 weeks.  What I mean is, that of all the experimenting with ingredients, heat and appliances, the biggest gift hasn’t been all the gadgets I’ve collected or the spices and sauces that fill my cupboards and fridge.  The biggest gift has been my ability to see myself differently.