Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The mixer is a metaphor

One of my dear friends was talking to me this weekend about the whole mixer situation. She assured me that it really must be better to have one. I thought about this on my run today. The purpose in using a machine to do labor for you is so that you save time and energy. Or to do things you literally cannot do for yourself--like travel 600 miles in a day. You need a machine for that.

I made cupcakes on Monday. They are fabulous. It took me hours to make them because I was silly and I didn't let the ingredients get to room temperature before I started mixing. It was basically impossible early on because I am simply not strong enough. Once I let things get to room temperature it was still noticeable work--my arms felt sore. It was hard but I could do it. I talked to Shanna about it as I worked. I talked about how this is quite hard for me now because I'm not used to doing it. If I practice it won't be hard any more.

What lesson am I teaching if I say that stirring butter is too hard so we can't have cupcakes? What a wimpy thing to say. I don't want her to give up on things like that. I want her to say, "Gosh. This is hard now. I had better practice more so it gets easier." Do you know how I teach her to say that? I say it. I say it a lot.

The other big argument is time savings. Uhm. You don't know much about my life if you think what I need is more time. I need ways of filling hours. That sounds weird and bad. I feel like it is a ridiculous privilege. Noah would cheerfully support me sitting here and doing the minimum of work forever. I'm not sure why he is ok with that, but he is. If I didn't do house maintenance until we had problems he would deal with that. If I did less cooking and baking he would live with that. He would probably buy Nutty Bars and call it a day.

I don't want my family eating that way. What I have to give in this life is the labor of my body. I put a lot of effort into feeding my family food I feel good about. I buy very fresh ingredients and I start from scratch. It takes an enormous amount of time and energy. We would not be able to buy food of the quality I make. We couldn't afford it. I would have to buy cheap shit.

In the process I am teaching my children about food. We talk about why we use the ingredients we do. We talk about flavor and vitamins and minerals and carbohydrates versus protein and and and. We talk about it all day long.

When it takes me many hours to make cupcakes we have in depth conversations about why it is harder to mix cold butter than warm. Shanna plays with it and learns. We make up games to amuse ourselves as we pass the time. We play with the ingredients and learn a lot more about how to handle them. How to clean up messes. We learn that when it takes so long to bake you can do most of the clean up during the waiting times and then it feels like a real pleasure when you sit down with your long anticipated dessert.

I don't know how other people teach the lessons I am teaching or really if they are taught at all. I had to learn these things as an adult. I was not taught. Learning to eat a wider variety of food other than ramen, scrambled eggs, potatoes, corn, chicken, and beef has been hard for me. I was not taught to eat anything else. I knew absolutely nothing about nutrition until I became an adult.

I have spent a lot of my life cultivating idleness. Trying to find ways to do less work. It hasn't by and large served me well. I want my children to understand that food starts out as plants and animals and it takes a whole butt-load of work to turn it into tasty meals. I want them to have a bone deep understanding that this is the process. I don't have it. I feel fear. I am actually afraid of doing things wrong when I cook. Sometimes I cry. I feel so afraid of doing it wrong and being bad.

When I was a kid Auntie would occasionally try to introduce some exotic thing to the table like sweet potatoes. Some people ate it. The people who didn't kept up a steady stream of invective as they protested the indignity of having it at the table. I'm afraid to make food that people might not like.

I was noticing the other day that foot fetishists would probably no longer be interested in my feet. Tom would recoil. My hands are rough. I have callouses. I have the darkest tan I have ever had in my life. I run in the sun for many hours every week. I work outside in the garden.

My life is not served by me doing things that encourage weakness. Pretty much all I have in front of me is more work. The stronger I am the easier it will be. The easier it will be to carry the load I have chosen for this life.

It's kind of weird sometimes. I feel weird because I want to do so much manual labor. It feels effected or mocking or co-opting or something. I stay home and I do my work in privacy. It is one of the most important parts of my life, to me, and I don't share it with people much. All of my work requires an ever increasing amount of strength and patience from me.

Mixing by hand takes strength and patience. Taking away practice time that is extremely low stakes seems silly. God helps those who help themselves. In order to help myself I need to be stronger. Next week, Noah wants a seed cake.


  1. "I don't know how other people teach the lessons I am teaching or really if they are taught at all."

    My suspicion is that they're not really taught in most households. I certainly don't feel like I learned them growing up. And I really admire your dedication to teaching them to your girls.

    1. Thank you. Sometimes I feel like my parenting is set up around teaching my kids the things I had to learn painfully on my own as an adult because no one taught me as a kid. They will have a different life.

  2. I want her to say, "Gosh. This is hard now. I had better practice more so it gets easier."

    What an excellent lesson!

    1. The most important one for smart little girls, right?

  3. Sounds like you are doing it right.

    1. Thank you. I'm not sure how you found me but I appreciate the comments. :)