Today, I’ve made two things: egg salad sandwiches, and butter pecan cheesecake.
Both times, I had help from Ann.
Here’s the thing: I don’t technically need help from Ann on these, but I’m incredibly glad to have had it.
I have this problem sometimes. I have trouble learning how to do some things that other people take for granted. Booksmarts don’t always help. Learning by watching and listening doesn’t always help. And trial and error doesn’t always help.
When making cheesecake, the problem is the crust. I can do it, but for some reason it’s really hard for me. Ann can put together a cheesecake crust in no time flat. It takes me half an hour sometimes, and my crusts are generally just crumbs and butter. For some reason, I have trouble with the whole process — either I have too much butter or not enough, or I can’t get the crust to go up the sides of the pan when I want it to (or NOT stick to the sides when I want it on the bottom). I can’t get the crust as even as I want. I get holes in the crust, or I get mountains that I can’t smooth out without putting holes in other parts of the crust. It’s infuriatingly frustrating.
When making egg salad, the problem is simply peeling the stupid hard-boiled eggs. I’ve watched other people take an egg from the same batch that I’m trying to peel, and they have it peeled in ten seconds. Four minutes later, I’m still working on the same egg.
I’ve gone online looking for tips. I’ve watched what other people do and I’ve tried to emulate it. I’ve tried various techniques. I’ve done trial and error and error and error and error and error. And nothing has gotten me to see any improvement.
And that’s what frustrates me. Not just the task, but the fact that after years of trying to improve, I’ve seen no improvement on the simplest of tasks, and it makes me feel like I’m just too stupid to figure out how to peel an egg or make a crust.
I grew up believing that if you practiced something enough, it becomes easier. I’ve peeled hundreds of eggs and I’ve made dozens of cheesecake crusts, and they haven’t become easier. I’m sure if I thought for a little while I could come up with dozens of other examples in the kitchen alone (chopping tomatoes, shucking corn, scraping down a bowl of batter… seriously, I could go on and on).
If I could see the slightest bit of improvement, I don’t think I would be so frustrated. If it had taken me four minutes to peel an egg ten years ago and only two minutes now, I’d at least feel like I was on the right track.
Because of things like this — both in the kitchen and in other areas of life — I find myself at odds with life goals. I want to improve in certain areas that come so naturally for other people that I (a) can’t find anyone who understands my frustration, or (b) can’t find anyone who knows how to train someone who’s so clearly remedial at normal tasks, or (c) can’t convince others that I’m not just whining about a task I don’t like.
I don’t fail at these things on purpose. And I don’t make them complex on purpose. And it leads me to sometimes feel like a double failure — first, because I can’t manage to do simple things that others can do, no matter how hard I try or how long I work on it, and that makes me feel like an outsider to the human race (and this is only barely an exaggeration when I’m in my darker moments), and second, because I feel like others don’t believe that these shortcomings are the result of anything other than laziness or avoidance of work I find distasteful. That’s so not true. There are things that I find very hard and do find distasteful (identifying and pulling weeds, for one thing — I’m not a fan of doing dirt-work), but because of that I don’t put in work to get better at it. But stupid little things like peeling a hard-boiled egg or making a cheesecake crust?
It’s amazing how things like that can bring down my entire day.
(Thank goodness I didn’t have to do either one today. The crust was made before I woke up, and the eggs had been peeled previously.)