This post was originally published as “When a stew is not just a stew” on www.thehesitanthousewife.blogspot.com, 11th of July, 2011. My lovely partner is now my husband, despite my dubious culinary skills. Also I have since mastered a delicious chickpea and potato curry in the slow cooker. No one likes bloody stew anyway.
Tonight, I cried over a failed stew. Now, to those not in my head, that seems kind of ridiculous. (and to be honest, in my head, it still sounds a little ridiculous!) But sometimes a stew is not just a stew.
I bought a new slow cooker on the weekend, and tried it out for the first time today, making a potato and chickpea stew. I was very excited. I prepared it all this morning, popped the lid on, and felt quite smug. Now this is where you need to hop into my head for a while.
For the majority of my life I have been surrounded by people who made me feel bad about myself. My mother spent my whole childhood telling me how hopeless I am. How I would be lucky if I could get a job at maccas when I grew up. How stupid, and dumb, and pathetic I was. How nobody would ever love me. I started to play the ‘fool’ as it was easier, no-one had expectations of me. I played the ‘dumb’ blond. I was ditsy, and silly, and the eternal ‘party girl’. I was good for a laugh, and not much more.
I married a man who perpetuated this ‘image’ of myself I had created. Who told me how useless I was, how I couldn’t cook, how I was a terrible housewife, how ‘undomesticated’ I was. What an awful wife I was. Our divorce cemented that belief even further.
My mother convinced me that I was just like her, in which case, I would clearly never make a good wife, or good mother. I was a bit of a joke really. ‘The girl who never grew up’. And I played to it, I acted the part. I stopped trying. I became the person that everyone saw me as.
Then I met my partner, who believes in me. I become a mother to a little girl who needs me. And realised that really, that was the life I wanted. I wanted to be a good housewife. I wanted to be a stay at home mum. I wanted to cook delicious meals and have a beautiful clean house. I wanted to grow up. I had a choice. I could be the person that people saw me as. I could be just like my mother. Or, I could be who I want to be.
I want to be a good ‘housewife’ and not just a hesitant one. I want to be a good mother, and a good role model to my daughter. However, one does not simply become a domestic goddess after 30 years of eating potatoes out of a can, and buying new underwear instead of doing a load of washing.
Which brings us back to the stew. All day today, I walked around the house feeling proud of myself. I wanted to ring every single person who had ever laughed at me, and doubted me, and tell them that I had dinner, a proper recipe, cooking away in the slow cooker all day, whilst I did a load of washing, two loads of dishes, tidied the house and played with my baby. I actually, at one point, carried her over to the slow cooker, to show her how clever I was! It wasn’t just a stew, it was evidence of how far I had come, how I wasn’t that hopeless, useless little girl I had been most of my life. I had a clean house, a happy baby, and a delicious dinner cooking for my ‘man’. I was not a failure. Except, it turned out I was. The stew was crap. The potatoes were hard, nothing gelled, it was like hard lumps of vegies, floating in stock water. So I cried. And felt stupid for crying, because really, it’s just a bloody stew. But sometimes, a stew is not just a stew.
Then my partner rang, on his way home from work, and I told him about how I’d stuffed up the stew. And he told me he loved me. So I guess I’ll just try again tomorrow. Because I’m not a failure, I’m not that useless little girl, I’m just not good at cooking stew. Yet.