My 13-year-old son is a big fan of cooking shows, especially Barefoot Contessa, Giada and Top Chef. As he develops his palate and a sense of curiosity about food and cooking, I am actively supporting his interest and practice. We recently shared a cooking day. My son dog-eared a few recipes, I purchased the ingredients and we were off.  Well, sort of.  After we argued for a while.

It turned out that some ingredients I thought I had in the pantry weren’t there. Additionally I had made some subtle substitutions while shopping (turkey sausage instead of regular sausage), and my son really wanted to follow the recipe exactly as written and demonstrated by Ina Garten.  I wanted that perfect mother/son shared experience just like on the TV show, Parenthood (where even family dysfunction is ever so charming).  Not happening.

And this is why I hate these shows. Cooking is a labor of love. I envy those kitchen masters, whose ingredients have been purchased, prepped, mise en place! And what about the sink full of dishes, pots and pans, the additional hour of clean-up just for making the dish, not including the postprandial mess? When I watched the movie Julie & Julia, the whole time I was thinking, “Please, show me the PILE of dishes in the sink, let’s get real, moviemakers!”  Of course, I know better and yet my son and I were both comparing our messy process with fully commercialized production performances. Of course, we experienced dissonance and misalignment. But, we dug in (and had stuffed peppers for dinner to show for it.)

The process of putting together a presentation is usually messy, unglamorous, nervous-making and also fun, creative, hopeful and unexpected.  The movie version of our best self isn’t always on the screen during our practices. Don’t let it deter you, since the behind-the-scenes stories are what we really love, crave and learn from. See you at the lectern.


“You can not create experience. You must undergo it.” Albert Camus