I think God has graciously given me selective amnesia to protect me from remembering how hopeless I used to be in certain situations. For example, I cannot remember the first holiday meal I tried to cook overseas. I think our first holiday overseas had to be Easter of 2003, but I have no recollection of attempting a meal. The next would have been Thanksgiving of 2005, but once again, I don’t remember giving turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes a go. My thought is that it was such a pathetic attempt that God has spared me from the memory.
I have mentioned before that I am not a cook. Cooking doesn’t get me all jazzed up like it seems to do to some people. I had home cooked meals growing up, so it wasn’t like I didn’t have an example. But I am pretty sure I have heard my mother say many times that she isn’t a big fan of cooking either. So most of our family dinners I would say were relatively simple: spaghetti and meat sauce (my favorite of my mom’s), chicken and rice, meatloaf and macaroni and cheese, etc. My dad was not a veggie guy, so we never had to have an extra side dish there either (mom made us get our fruits and veggies at other meals and snacks).
But in July of 2002 I married a man who came from a family where he went to his grandparents’ house to eat at least once a week. At these homes there were meals on an everyday Tuesday night that looked like a Thanksgiving spread. His home meals consisted of food mostly from scratch with about 3 side dishes on average. Thankfully, he was very patient with me when I first started cooking and also bought into some healthier options that stretched him out of his normal “meat and potatoes” dinner routine.
But holidays were a different story for my husband. Joe is a homebody and he misses holidays at home. He is very attached to the memories and “feel” of Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter. He has certain foods he likes to eat at those times and without them, it doesn’t quite feel the same. I can remember the first time he asked me to make mashed potatoes and I looked at him and said, “Like from a box?” I can remember the glazed look in his eyes as he tried to come up with a reply for that.
So I have tried to do my best to make a holiday meal that will be a blessing to my family overseas. But as anyone knows who has lived as Basket Wife over here: it is not easy. Not only can it be tough to find all the ingredients you need for things, but you are also using kitchen appliances and tools that are not your own (and can range anywhere from a weak vegetable peeler to an oven with an open flame and no temperature control). Then add in the fact that you are often doing it all by yourself while your husband is probably off at practice because many of the big holidays for us aren’t recognized by the team, and it can make for a challenging meal.
I have come to see it as a blessing for me though. If I had lived at home in the U.S. for these last 9.5 years, there is no way I would have ever cooked a full holiday meal. I would have been happy to sit by while our two families hosted and our older female relatives made the majority of the food. I may have thrown together a salad or dessert now and again, but that is about it. I wouldn’t have discovered some of our new favorite recipes for mashed potatoes and stuffing. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have failed recipes that we could all laugh at. And most of all, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to sacrificially serve my family by having myself stretched to do something I am not totally comfortable with.
And that has been the biggest blessing to me in this lifestyle: being pushed beyond what I thought I could do. By God’s grace I have learned so much more in marriage, parenting, home care, language, culture adjustment, etc. than I ever could have apart from this lifestyle. You are forced you to go beyond your comfort level. And that is what I think is one of the greatest gifts God has given me as a Basket Wife.