It's Not The Alcohol Talking

When I tell a story, it may seem like I’m supplying superfluous information—and, I have been known to go off on a tangent. But, when something triggers a tale, there has to be context for the listener/reader to understand where I’m coming from. So, buckle up…

There is a popular grocery store chain in my area and it recently went out of business. This is leaving the local residents feeling disheartened. One of the features of this store is that you can buy a glass of beer or wine to drink on while you shop. Some of the posts written by locals on social media lament they can’t shop and drink now—what are they to do? These comments bother me and I’ll explain why.

I used to have at least one drink every, single night. It was part of a daily routine in my previous marriage. My ex drank quite a bit each night, sometimes way too much. Once I was separated and on my own with three kids, drinking was limited as I had to keep my wits about me. Over the years drinking alcohol has become infrequent with a month or more going by without any beer, wine, or my favorite spirit, vodka.

Not having alcohol hasn’t become a conscious decision as I really don’t think about it overall. There are times I do want an ice-cold beer or even a mixed drink—and I have one. During the summer, having a beer or two sitting poolside isn’t uncommon—I enjoy it. Have I gotten drunk before? Absolutely, but it’s been a very long time. 

I’m not oblivious to the notion alcoholism is a disease as my paternal grandparents died because of it. And I know the comments on social media don’t imply they are all alcoholics. Honestly, this has nothing to do with them overall. What it has triggered in me is sadness about my youngest sister, who—at the age of 38—died of alcoholism.  Her death was a hard blow to my heart and psyche. Her constant state of drunkenness was more prevalent toward the end of her life, however with her being four states away, I wasn’t aware that her most of her days began and ended with alcohol. 

I do understand why my sister drank—she was in pain emotionally—predominantly due to her estranged husband who for lack of a better word, tormented her the last four years of her life.  Only one who has been with someone with narcissistic personality disorder would understand this level of harassment. Then, unfortunately, her choice of men she subsequently dated emotionally and physically abused her. The autopsy revealed several bruises on her body, but stated she died as a result of her alcoholism. 

Drinking was her way of dealing with the obstacles of her choices and what life was throwing at her. 

My talks with my youngest sister were seemingly productive in helping her work through her problems, but only temporarily. Behind the scenes, her drinking had steadily increased. Both my other sister and I tried to get her to come stay with us for a while, but she wanted to be near her children as she got to have supervised visits with them on the weekends. Those around her were not emotionally equipped to help her despite seeing her demise first hand. 

Not a single day since last May has she not entered my thoughts. I no longer find memes posted on social media about getting drunk or needing a drink humorous.  I am not judging these people so much as my views have changed on drinking—stained by my personal tragedy. Any time I do have an alcohol, it’s not without a small sense of guilt. I know that her death isn’t my fault and I should still be able to enjoy a beer while sunning by the pool; or a cocktail when meeting up with friends—it’s just different now. 

It sounds odd to say I have a new found respect for drinking alcohol, but in reality that’s what it is. Additionally, we shouldn’t just recognize when someone needs help, but do the hard task of intervening. I immensely regret not getting on a plane and getting her the professional help she needed. Remember alcohol and substance abuse happens to the best of families and friends. Don’t let regrets be the driving force in changing your life. 

Substance Abuse National Helpline: 800-662-HELP

Confessions of a Culinary Autocrat

Hello. My name is Desiree and I’m a Culinary Autocrat.

Let’s first define autocrat as I know it’s one of those words people think they know, but may not be sure. The purpose of this exercise is to bring awareness, as well as help those who are in denial to recognize it within themselves. 

Autocrat:  a person ruling with unlimited authority; one who has undisputed influence or power.

It took a hot minute to determine the exact noun I wanted to use to describe my condition. I first selected bully, but that is defined as someone who is habitually cruel, insulting, or threatening to others who are weaker or in some way vulnerable. I am not cruel, insulting, or remotely threatening to anyone—it’s not in my nature. Dictator didn’t work as I’m not an oppressor—unless you ask any one of my kids, but that’s for another time. These two words alone are quite negative in connotation and I don’t think my condition warrants that kind of cynicism. 

The word autocrat seemed to fit perfectly as I do have unlimited authority in my kitchen and hold all of the power and influence as to what goes on there. Think of a chef in a restaurant. This person is in charge and decides on what is to be prepared and how. I am no different in my kitchen, but the concept changes when people around you aren’t employees. With that, I am using this post as a sort of confessional as I recognize that my autocratical ways may not always be positive. 

Herein lies my problem…I like things prepared or cooked in a certain way—my way. My argument is that I have been cooking for about twenty-five years and I think that gives me some authority. Right? I know I have made it far from fun to cook with me sometimes—okay, most of the time—but, there are methods to my madness. There are certain ways things are to be chopped, or diced, and there are specific ways ingredients have to be measured and prepared (see Alton Brown). There’s a science to the art of cooking and it ALWAYS matters how things are done.

I am confident in my abilities and know my limitations. I know I should use my powers for good and teach my teenagers, but I lose patience. I can show them how to use a knife, measure ingredients, and put everything together. The problem is that the next time they help, anything I’ve taught has vanished from their memory. I show them again—and again—and again. To watch them haphazardly pour milk into a measuring cup used for dry ingredients EVERY SINGLE TIME, rather than use one for liquids, makes me crazy.  Now I am done and my tone will discourage them from any future culinary exercises. However, I do need to ensure my kids know how to cook for themselves as they have to be comfortable in the kitchen, knowing all the tools to use, spices to add, and various ingredients that work well together.  Or, they grow up thinking it’s easier to open a box and just add water…with the wrong measuring cup, no less.

Now, cooking with your significant other not only shares responsibilities, but it’s an engaging way to bring you closer together. There are random conversations, laughter, and even some sensual taste-testing.  Michael and I have had some fabulous cooking sessions and it can, quite honestly, be very romantic. However, the days of us preparing meals together have been put on the back shelf—like some ingredient that is used on rare occasions, such as truffle oil or saffron. He knows how to cook and has prepared some delicious meals.  I have learned with him that I have to let go and let him prepare things as he wants. However, I find myself making little comments—not to insult but to suggest. At least that’s how I see it.

Now, cooking with your significant other not only shares responsibilities, but it’s an engaging way to bring you closer together. There are random conversations, laughter, and even some sensual taste-testing.  Michael and I have had some fabulous cooking sessions and it can, quite honestly, be very romantic. However, the days of us preparing meals together have been put on the back shelf—like some ingredient that is used on rare occasions, such as truffle oil or saffron. He knows how to cook and has prepared some delicious meals.  I have learned with him that I have to let go and let him prepare things as he wants. However, I find myself making little comments—not to insult but to suggest. At least that’s how I see it.

Things all came to head when he wanted to help and asked how I wanted some potatoes cut. They were going to be roasted in the oven, so it was important that they were all relatively the same in bite-size pieces to cook evenly. What started as a friendly argument over diced versus chopped turned into eerie silence in the kitchen.  I’m honestly not sure it was me being offensive or him being defensive—but, it’s been a while just the same. 

So, I find myself alone in the kitchen these days and I know it’s my fault. I have to let go my need to be in culinary control and allow my family to learn—just as I did (and still do). With Michael, I have to let him cook as he pleases, without my commentary (unless he asks, of course). I will add that I don’t complain about having to do all the cooking—the culinary autocrat in me is good with this. But, the kitchen being the most commonly used room in the house is a meeting place for families. I am exceedingly happy on those rare occasions everyone is home and standing around the counter as I cook—laughing and sharing stories. I even love it when just one person hangs out with me—until they ask to help.

I’m a work in progress.