Are you familiar with those days when everything seems to go awry? When nothing goes to plan and everything feels proportionately more difficult than usual? That was my Sunday. Oof. It was a tough one! I don't have those kinds of days often, so when I do, I find them extra sticky.
I like to think about them in a particular way, though, especially when EVERYTHING seems to be a little wonky. What am I doing to attract this? What kind of energy am I putting out to the universe that's inviting this kind of unsettledness? How is my own inner chaos feeding this generalized unrest?
On this specific wacky day, dinner was probably the biggest marker of things being out of alignment. Usually, our meals at home turn out really well (and even if they're not as I'd originally planned, they're interesting accidents and I usually end up making them again anyways). This Sunday's was not that way.
I'd intended to make delicious grainy-mustard crusted tofu, baked zucchini fries, and a bed of steamed kale.
The kale was fine (it's a hard one to mess up), so I won't get too hung up on that.
However: the tofu? A charred yet somehow undercooked mess where none of the crusty coating stuck. It instead remained in a blackened like in the corner of the pan. Oof again.
The brown rice flour/nutritional yeast coating on the zucchini fries, through some miracle of science, didn't cook. It was in the oven for 40+ minutes and somehow, when I removed the trays, the little green spears were dropping with gloppy goop that tasted like Playdoh. (Perhaps this one needs some reworking before it's included in the cookbook.)
Sigh. I was feeling a little defeated (after all, it took time to put dinner together, and I'd already been too ambitious with my day: I'd accomplished only half of what I'd intended to.) But then something occurred to me: as in everything, a learning opportunity is available even in our most frustrating moments. (And let's be real: in the grand scheme of the whole world ever, my overwhelming, underproductive day wasn't really an issue. Everything was and is fine.)
I decided to take my clunker of a dinner and extrapolate the bigger picture learning. Here are my five big takeaways:
1. You can survive a clunker of a dinner.
We didn't starve. How wild! We made the best of what was salvageable and sadly tossed what wasn't. Michael and I are still standing. It wasn't traumatic or overly emotional: it was just a little disappointing. Not starving and learning that a little kitchen mishap can be moved past? Grand.
2. Eating when you're upset is not fulfilling.
What I needed after that day of challenges was not food: I barely tasted what we ate. I didn't enjoy it (and probably wouldn't have even if it had been edible.) What I was craving more was calmness, settledness, some comfort. Not food. Coming from a place where food used to be the only comfort, this feels different and informative: at the end of a tough day, the most comforting thing doesn't have to be food. I think I was more in tune with my time with Michael and more receptive to having company for comfort, rather than stuffing myself. Have you experienced this shift before? (Incidentally, our emotional state when we eat actually changes how the body uses food. If we eat when depressed or low, our digestion and metabolism (also depressed) don't work as well. We get less nutritional benefit from the food AND we're more likely to store it in places we don't want it.)
3. The remnants of a clunker meal can be repurposed.
Though I wasn't super motivated to deal with the zucchini at the time, I packed it up in the fridge and spent some time Monday morning peeling off the uncooked goop. The zucchini ended up a stir fry later on that day, perfectly edible (and time-saving! It was already cut up. Score.)
4. Nourishment comes not from perfect meals but from doing something healthful and empowered for yourself.
Even the act of putting together a meal - even though it was brutal - was a means of enacting some sense of "I've got this" in an otherwise crazy day. Wrangling ingredients and spending a few quiet minutes at the stove tending to their preparation was therapeutic. There is value to be found in each step we take to regain our empowerment when things feel out of control, especially when those steps are healthful and aligned with our goals.
5. Not all meals are going to be perfect.
Nothing is ever going to be perfect, actually. Being okay with that - and being willing to embrace the silliness of accidents and missteps - is essential to moving through them gracefully.
Have you ever made a meal that was so entirely not what you expected?