The Collaborative Kitchen

“My kitchen, my rules!”
Such was the battle cry that came out of my mouth anytime I was making dinner.
And so it came to pass that no one came to help me anymore.
Sometimes they offered.
“Is there anything I can do to help?” came the half hearted query.
“No, it’s alright! It’s almost ready!” I would always respond.
Partially to allow company to continue kibbitzing.
Partially to allow me to finish what I started.
A meal from beginning to end.
If someone so much as put the salad bowl on the table before I was ready, they got the sideways stinkeye glare from me.
And of course, the unwritten rule was that whoever cooked didn’t have to cleanup.
So there was that.
But awhile back I became obsessed with the Danish culture.
They kept making the news headlines as one of the “Top 10 Happiest Countries in the World.”
What was their secret?
What were they doing that no one else was doing?
What did the Danes have that other countries didn’t have?
A deep dive was profoundly interesting.
Descended from the Vikings, it seems the Danes are very chill about a lot of things.
To help them contend with the fact they get 17 hours of darkness during the very heart of winter, enough to make anyone suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder in my book, they have endured, nay, they have thrived.
But why? How?
Besides free education, and order and structure and rules and expectations in their society, as well as an excellent social safety net, there’s a little something called “Hygge” that seems to help.
A cozy atmosphere. A warm hearth. The company of good friends and family.
Oh, and collaboration in the kitchen.
It seems I have been doing it all wrong.
When Danes have friends and family over for meals, which is quite often I understand, there is cheerful collaboration.
No one cooks alone.
Everyone brings something that they prepare.
Or at the very least, everyone helps the cook in the kitchen.
An about-face in my steadfast mindset is not something I come easily by.
But I thought I would give it a try.
I decided to let go of the “My way or the highway” attitude in my kitchen.
Believe me, it was not easy.
After literally decades of doing everything that goes along with a meal, I have let go of the reins a little.
And you know what?
It’s not so bad.
It started when we began ordering from one of those meal kit delivery services.
Two meals per week, with detailed recipes and instructions and groceries included.
Hubby took care of the meat situation.
I took care of the vegetable and salads.
And we shared the potatoes, rice or pasta duties.
And it was fun!
Hubby was in charge of reading out the recipe, the directions, and who did what where.
At the same time, he prepared the intricate seasonings that were often required for all of the dishes.
It always took us a lot longer to prepare than the advertised 30 minutes, of course.
But that was okay.
We were having a great time!
The kitchen collaboration has continued even with no meal kit on a particular evening.
I ask hubby if he wants to do the salad or the meat or the rice, pasta or potatoes.
And stand back without any involvement when he does so.
And it’s wonderful.
Who knew?
Apparently the Danes did.
And I have to admit, although I have relinquished control over the kitchen, I feel much happier.
More open to suggestion on what should be prepared, and how.
And it’s so much fun.
Why hadn’t I done this years ago?
Oh, because I am a bit of a control freak.
I forgot.
But as I mellow and age, much like cheese and fine wine, I feel I am getting better. Still learning, too.
One is never too old to learn.
If one is open to it.
And who knows.
One may even be happier for it.


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