Friday, 4 November 2016

Learning To Cook At 60

My mother, who’ll be 93 this month, said life began for her at 60, possibly because her youngest turned 18 that year.  Her mother passed her first driving test at 63, left the home she’d been born in and became a university dorm mother, forming relationships that lasted the rest of her life. 

The world outside my bedroom window.
Me?  On my 60th birthday, I’d been incapacitated for 5 months by an illness I secretly didn’t believe in.  My days had been reduced to watching magpies outside my window chase copulating pigeons away from the view of their own impressionable fledglings.

I used to have plans that didn’t include getting tired every time I took a shower.  At first glance, it seemed everything had been stolen from me.  Gradually, though, it became evident that I was on the same journey I’d always been – i.e. my life – the only difference being that rather than going 70 mph down the freeway, I was now on foot. 

In practical terms, that meant that a few minutes weeding the rose garden followed by a few minutes of lying on my back watching the buzzards and kites scream at each other over sky space, well, eventually that does get the job done. 

Or as a Valentine's Day craft.
One day, lying on my back took the form of plopping down on the couch beside Siobhán who was watching Mary Berry make a chicken pie on TV.  The part where they wove the pie crust reminded me of the woven heart Christmas decorations we made in Appalachia.  I can do that, I decided. 

Later, when Siobhán made her own chicken pie, she couldn’t remember how to weave the crust.  Without consulting anything or anybody who might know better than myself (which would be just about anything or anybody), I took on the job.

When the scientific mind cooks, wine is essential.
Let’s stop here for a life observation.  The scientific mind (that would be Siobhán) interests itself in rules – learning them, repeating them, sticking to them in order to repeat desired results.

The creative mind has an element of oppositional defiance in it that constantly asks, Why?  How can this be better?  Can that be more suited to my liking?  When does the fun come into this?

So when Siobhán tells me that Mary Berry says we need 2 packages of pastry for the crust & we only have one, I decide to go for it, even though I know feckall about cooking and, well, she’s Mary Berry. 

But the creative mind is more than oppositional.  It’s curious.  I wanted to know why


Lora's pre-bake weave.

turned into this.  

A lake has formed.

Re-watching the episode proved the instructions were a little more complicated than my memory of them. 

I watched another episode in the series and thought, oh my . . . what I’ve missed, being surrounded by good cooks all my life.  

Making smoke.
Into the kitchen I go.  And no, I didn’t become scientific.  My mind had its questions.  I substituted what I didn’t have.  I added what I thought I’d like better.  I made a lot of smoke.  And I got to eat as well.  Several times.

The lesson my mother and grandmother passed along from their sixties wasn’t about achieving.  It was about taking a life’s worth of kickass learning and moving forward with as much bravery and foolishness as I did in my twenties, despite whatever shit life has hurled at me.  It’s about recognising that the ability to experience something, to experience anything really, well that’s just about two shades past precious.  It’s not a Pollyanna, look on the bright side, never get what you want but be grateful approach.  It’s accepting reality in its ugly and miraculous because that's what being alive is, then seeing what the fuck this next thing’s all about.  In other words, while it’s not 70 mph, keep moving and you’ll meet things.

Going it on foot.
If I hadn’t gotten sick, I’d probably find as much depth in my life as I do now because that's what creative minds do.  Most likely, though, I’d not stop weeding the roses to watch the buzzards and kites.  And I certainly wouldn’t take the time to learn to cook.  But I did, so I am.  It ain’t heroic.  Cooking’s not life changing (unless it’s fatal, which in my case, is possible.)  But I am.  I’m going to learn how to cook at 60. 


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. So sorry to hear of your chronic fatigue.
    Retired in June due to fibromyalgia.
    Cousins, I guess. Totally understand the perspective it creates.
    For some odd reason the google account wants to sign me out as "Rick" when I clearly set up the account as "Dawn". So when you see Rick's comments, assume it's me.