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Has being “capable” become a rarity?

image from campbells.com

Last night, I was thinking of something that happened last summer.  We were invited to a gathering via our oldest son.  I had met the other couple before and while the wife seemed a little nervous,  she was nice enough.  Then he told me that she really struggles having people over.  One eyebrow raised, I remember dismissing the comment and thinking, “ah .. It’ll be fine. It always is.”

You see, although I come from a humble farm upbringing, I’ve traveled, lived on my own, and have always been self supported.    Not many situations intimidate me and I know that whatever “moxie” I have is because of  my very capable mother and aunts.  Growing up, I witnessed talented women who could assist with a calf delivery in the night, get five kids off to the bus on time,  hang the wash on the line (after using a wringer-washer to get our laundry done), manage a 1/3 acre garden, and serve multiple mouths multiple meals daily – all from scratch.  They did so with grace and good humor and, in my mind’s eye, hardly broke a sweat.  They taught 4-H, shepherded us to swim and piano lessons, drilled us on our vocabulary lessons,  and taught Sunday School.  Their gardens envied Farmer’s Markets and they cooked, canned, and pickled enough to get us all through a long winter.  I can remember many instances when Mom and Aunt Irene found themselves “nominated” to “put on” (host/plan/cook for/etc) a party in someone or another’s honor, often with little notice… for 100+  people.  Easy-peasy!  Christmas dinners in our family were never prepared for less than 35 people, 17 of them children.  Summertime cookouts brought scads of family members of all ages and, while some offered a dish to pass, many just showed up bearing a hearty appetite for family time and delicious foods.

Back to my story from last summer:  As is customary, I phoned ahead to see what I could bring and was asked to contribute a side dish which, to me, means “bring two.”   So, after a full week at work, I prepared a fettuccine pasta salad and marinated vegetable salad.  We arrived and found ourselves part of a small group of people milling around.  I was not surprised to see that our boy had prepared burgers and smoked chicken; I brought out my pasta salad and marinated vegetable salad.   The hostess presented.. with great flourish … baked beans.  After a bit of mingling we all sat down to eat.  The conversation was a a little stiff  but safe, focusing on weather, summer plans and such.   I could tell that he was trying hard and secretly hoping that we were having a good time.  I listened as her husband and others raved about the beans.  On and on they went about the beans.  And they were good but … really?   Around the table, as I watched as the entire group devour the chicken, burgers, pasta and vegetables that we’d brought all I could hear were oohs and ahhs about beans.

Glancing up, I couldn’t miss the raised eyebrow on the hubbs’s face.  He knew that I was thinking:  It’s not like she grew the beans.   These are open-the-can-and-plop-into-a-casserole dish-beans. Seriously?

But them something happened:  An old familiar lesson swirled around me again: not everyone’s experience is the same.   The experiences you’ve had were exemplary, and hers might not have been. Maybe this is as good as it gets?

I got what our boy meant about “she struggles to have people over.”

Not everyone cooks.

Not everyone likes hosting get-togethers.

It’s OK. I understand.

But here’s where the rubber meets the road: When someone brings home-made goodness to your table, maybe while you’re licking your fingers eating it, you can pay them a compliment, too.

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Categories: Attitude, Confidence at any age, Family, Food, Life, Mom, Personal, Relationships, Snarky, Thoughts, Uncategorized, Women | Tags: , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Has being “capable” become a rarity?

  1. Oh well, chalk it up to experience.

  2. easylifestyles

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  3. I’ve made it a habit, intentionally so, to always give a compliment to each of the people bringing a dish to the table. It’s sort of an unspoken rule in our family when we get together. Funny, really, but no one stops until at least every dish has had a compliment. You are correct, they should have given you positive feedback as well. My guess would be that they were so pleased that she was making an effort that they wanted to encourage her as much as possible in the hopes that she would make the effort again. And maybe they feared that any distraction away from that – meaning a compliment to you – would seem demeaning to her own efforts (particularly if they were pale in comparison).

    • Writerdood, that is a great habit to get into! I do think you are right (and I feel bad being snarky about it) b/c I think in their efforts to encourage her, they probably didn’t realize others felt slighted. However, I’ve said it before, part of why I love to cook is for the accolades and I’m grateful my crew understands that about me. Also – it was a good reminder to me that just because I know capable women (and am one myself), I shouldn’t assume that’s how it is for everyone. Maybe opening a can of beans was meant to be amazing? Who am I to say? It was a life moment that, for some reason, has stuck with me. Thanks for visiting, and weighing in 🙂 MJ

  4. Aww, this is great. I really like the way you write, like I’m sitting in the kitchen with you.

  5. Great post! I too was blessed to be raised with a mom and grandmothers who cook. And I cook, and now both my kids cook. I do think some of this is about exposure. But I also agree with your point about graciousness. It doesn’t take skill in the kitchen to be able to express thanks for food someone else has contributed. And although I’ll admit to a little internal snobbishness about picking up food from the deli or bakery to bring to a gathering, if that’s what you can do, that’s ok too…so why didn’t the hostess pick up some roasted chickens or other items that would be easily available at the grocery? What would she have done if everyone else that came to the party had not been generous to bring multiple side dishes and entrees???? Just don’t understand opening your home to guests and then being under-prepared! But maybe that’s just the way I was raised! Couldn’t agree with you more! Sheila

    • As I suspected we are like-minded. I’m with you, I’d rather cook something that bring store-brought stuff to a party but .. if that’s all I had, I’d do that for sure. I don’t understand the under-prepared thing either, it was a “why bother?” moment for me. Thanks for visiting, MJ

  6. ter

    I too was blessed with the desire and ability (and a mom to teach me how) to entertain properly. The cooking thing I kind of learned on my own. I think because she was so capable, I never learned cooking skills from her. It was always just done. Hostessing is a skill and I did learn that from her. We always have more than enough food! 🙂

    • I agree; hostessing is a skill and I learned it first hand, at my mom’s apron strings. This experience taught me that not everyone gets – or wants – that. And, like you, we always have more than enough at every party to the point that no one ever seems to want to leave! 🙂 Thanks for visiting, Ter. MJ

  7. “Growing up, I witnessed talented women who could assist with a calf delivery in the night, get five kids off to the bus on time, hang the wash on the line (after using a wringer-washer to get our laundry done), manage a 1/3 acre garden, and serve multiple mouths multiple meals daily – all from scratch. They did so with grace and good humor and, in my mind’s eye, hardly broke a sweat.”
    I love reading about powerful, capable women! I’m afraid I can relate to that poor bean woman though… people like us need recipes from people like you! (and links to your blogs!)

    • Recipes you ask? Well .. I do believe I do :). Search my site, you’ll find plenty. Great to hear from you carandgirl! Cheers – MJ

  8. It sounds like you and I had similar strong willed women who brought us up! Mama always taught me not to take no crap. But that’s a different story.

    I get if you don’t like having people over, but don’t put yourself in that situation, or just fake it til you make it. The evening will be over soon enough.

    • You hit the heart of it – if you don’t want to bother, don’t and if you find yourself having to then yes – by all means “fake it till you make it!” Cheers WW 🙂 MJ.

  9. I tend to shoot from the hip and it’s taken me more than a few years to learn my mother’s graciousness. I, too, am a capable woman and am frequently stunned at how helpless some adults are. I finally realized that I was judging them really harshly– something I despise when done to me. When I catch myself doing it now, I remind myself that they are doing the best they can and probably have some talents that I lack. That usually puts me in a more “gracious” frame of mind.

    • I agree with you … and sometimes when I experience instances like the one above I try to step back and think “what was the lesson here.” You’re right – someone might just be doing the very best they’re capable of and I’m spoiled b/c what was normal to me was highly capable women at warp speed. Not necessarily everyone’s experience. Thanks for commenting .. and being gracious! 😉 MJ

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